Despite celebrating a 3-1 triumph over Madagascar, South Africa U17 women's coach Simphiwe Dludlu insists they were not at their best against the Malagasy side on Wednesday.
Bantwana had sealed a semi-final spot after wins over Seychelles and Botswana and aimed to wrap up their group stage campaign in style but ended struggling to replicate the form in their final tie.
A first-half brace from Nelly Gamede and a second-half goal from Oyisa Marhazi helped the South Africans outscore their opponents in a four-goal thriller at Francios Xavier Stadium.
However, the 32-year-old coach, who made five changes to her starting line-up, said they performed below par in a bid to offer other players in the squad a chance to feature in the competition.
“Congratulations to the players for the win but I must admit that we did not play our best football," Dludlu told Safa.net.
"We sacrificed our attacking, goal-scoring prowess for the sake of giving all the players a run in this tournament.
"I am happy that we managed to see all the players in a real live game situation, while we managed to give our regulars a break ahead of the semi-final match.
"I believe it was very important to give all the players a run because at the end of the day such tournaments have been created for us as coaches to develop players.
“It has been a very tough and exhausting week and this showed during the match because we could see that the players are tired and their bodies were feeling heavy.
"I would also like to congratulate Madagascar on the great performance they displayed today. They were very tight in defence and their goalkeeper really gave us a hard time.
"It is great to see teams grow as a tournament progresses and that is exactly what Madagascar has done, they have grown."
South Africa are aiming to win the inaugural Cosafa U17 Women's Cup in Mauritius but they must negotiate past a young Shepolopolo on Friday afternoon at Francios Xavier Stadium.