Bafana Bafana held on for an invaluable 1-1 draw with the Africa Cup of Nations’ hosts Ivory Coast in an international friendly in Abidjan on Tuesday night.
Having played to a dull draw with Eswatini at home on Friday night, Bafana needed to dust themselves off against the Afcon hosts away from home.
After all, that would go a long way in warning their World Cup qualifiers opponents' Benin and Rwanda next month and Afcon Group E counterparts Tunisia, Mali and Namibia in January.
But it wasn’t an easy draw especially in front of a buzzing crowd in the Ivorian capital city, having Bafana been used to playing in front of empty seats at home.
However, Hugo Broos' men had a trick up their sleeve as they took a surprise lead into the break courtesy of Themba Zwane in the eighth minute before the match ended 1-1.
It was a dream start for Bafana that Broos, too, couldn’t have envisaged despite having made six changes to the team that drew with the lowly ranked Eswatini, 144.
The Elephants are not only the hosting nation for the biennial event but they are favourites to win it too. They held the No 1 ranked nation on the continent, Morocco, to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
But a move cooked in the headquarters of Chloorkop brought the Stade Félix Houphouët Boigny to deafening silence early in the match as Mamelodi Sundowns’ players combined for Bafana's only goal of the match.
Against the run of play, Zwane found his Brazilians’ teammate Teboho Mokoena inside the box, and the latter selflessly set-up the onrushing ‘Mshishi’ who rattled the roof of the net.
Bafana should have doubled their lead in no time, but a hard and low shot by Bongokuhle Hlongwane was parried away for a corner-kick by goalkeeper Yahya Fofana.
The South Africans endured nervy moments of their own, particularly from Borussia Dortmund's Sebastien Haller, who scored the equaliser and a second goal in as many matches.
Haller initially tested the waters first with a glancing header that unfortunately sailed over Ronwen Williams goals before he was again denied by the upright after Mothobi Mvala’s mistake at the back.
The Sundowns’ man made a poor clearance which was intercepted by Haller who did well to lob the onrushing Williams before his effort came off the upright.
Granted, Haller might have had the clearer chances, but Seko Fofana had an interesting battle with Williams. The latter rising to every challenge in his first appearance since June.
Williams, who’ll be one of the missing players for Sundowns in the Carling Knockout last 16 match against TS Galaxy on Wednesday night, also denied Fofana with a brilliant diving save early in the second half.
Sure, Ivory Coast started the second half well, but it was Bafana who should have found the goal, but Khuliso Mudau shot wide from close-range when it looked easier to score.
Lebo Mothiba also had a shot at goal but his shot was saved by Fofana – a save that gave Ivory Coast ample belief that they can still equalise as long as they continue pressing.
But it was only until the 67th minute that Haller finally found his goal, the 29-year-old striker, unmarked, rising high inside the box to head home a well weighted Oumar Diakite cross.
And with their 12th man now up on his feet and cheering the team, Ivory Coast threw the kitchen sink at Bafana in the later stages, but Williams & Co defended with their lives to earn an invaluable draw.