South Africa failed to qualify to the 2012 African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea despite playing to a goalless draw against Sierra Leone in front of a home crowd at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday.Egypt's 3-0 win over Niger ensured that South Africa, Sierra Leone and Niger all finished tied for the top spot with nine points apiece. While South Africa possessed a better goal differential, Niger held the advantage where it counted, posting a better head-to-head record against the other two teams.
Bafana’s left back woes continued with Punch Masenamela failing a late match fitness test and for the second time in the qualifiers, and Mosimane opted to use Siboniso Gaxa as a makeshift fullback. The decision paid dividends as the Belgium-based defender had a good game, combining well with Daylon Claasen who started in the absence of skipper Steven Pienaar.
The first real chance of the game fell to Bafana striker Katlego Mphela in the 39th minute from a free kick outside the box. The Sundowns marksman watched in agony as his shot was calmly collected by the Sierra Leone goalkeeper.
The visitors nearly opened the flood gates on the stroke of halftime, but they found that Morgan Gould was not in compromising mood, and he cleared the ball out for a corner.
Sheriff Suma took the resulting set-piece and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune missed the ball in the air, but fortunately for him there was no one lurking at the back post for the Leone Stars.
The second half was tame, with both teams struggling to put the final ball to good use, forcing both coaches began to ring the changes.
Sierra Leone came close to breaking the deadlock in the 71st minute, but Khune pulled off a breath-taking save, punching the ball over the crossbar for a corner.
With news filtering in from Cairo that Egypt was leading Niger 3-0, coach Mosimane handed midfielder Oupa Manyisa his Bafana debut when he came on for Daylon Claasen.
The move seemed to have rejuvenated the home team as Manyisa earned his side a free kick on the edge of the box.
Skipper Siphiwe Tshabalala’s well struck shot from the free kick found goalkeeper Caulker equal to the task as he parried it away, but Mphela failed to take advantage of the opportunity as he rifled the ball over the bar.
The draw means that the 2010 World Cup hosts have now failed to qualify for two consecutive African Cups of Nations, while Niger will make its debut in the tournament.