Captain Ronwen Williams displayed his superb shot-stopping skills once more to help Bafana Bafana claim the bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations via a 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory against the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Abidjan on Saturday night.
Bafana and the Leopards tussled for 90 minutes and could not find a winning goal, which led to the game being decided via a penalty shootout at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.
A Bafana side looking to bow out of the Afcon in style lined up against a strong DR Congo side with as many as three changes to the team that lost to Nigeria in the semi-finals.
Wingers Thapelo Morena and Mihlali Mayambela made their way into the starting XI alongside Nkosinathi Sibisi at the back, with Mothobi Mvala, Percy Tau and Grant Kekana missing out on both suspension and injury.
Before this encounter, South Africa had only finished in third place once before in their history.
The two teams quickly settled into the game and made each aware of their attacking threats, with the Leopards creating the biggest chance inside the first eight minutes.
Spartak Moscow midfielder Theo Bongonda weaved through a few bodies before releasing Silas Mvumpa on the opposite wing, but Bafana keeper Williams stood tall and snatched the ball from the feet of the striker to keep the scores level.
The opening stanza saw Bafana dominate the majority of the possession at 63%, but without a real goal threat, something that would’ve troubled head coach Hugo Broos.
The centre-back pairing of Siyanda Xulu and Sibisi had to be the main concern for Bafana, though, as Congo’s diagonal running seemed to cause havoc in behind, and SA perhaps could’ve conceded on the stroke of halftime.
Nantes midfielder Samuel Moutoussamy also burst through from midfield and made his way into the box, but a late last-ditch tackle by Xulu saw the two teams go into the break goalless.
The second half started out in the same way as the first stanza, with DRC providing the better impetus and vigour as they took four shots at goal before the 55th-minute mark.
Bafana’s tournament has been made up of a lot of technical adaptations and rotation of formations, and the direction of the game demanded that once more.
The reaction of the Bafana technical team to try and wrestle control was to introduce midfielder Thabang Monare, as well as attacker Oswin Appollis.
The Leopards had their best chance of the game in the 65th minute through an unfamiliar handling blunder by Williams.
Bafana’s captain failed to hold onto a looping ball into the box, but second-half substitute Fiston Mayele could not keep his composure after two rebounded shots and placed his effort wide.
In a game that saw very little in terms of chances for Bafana, Mayambela was the lucky recipient of a glorious chance in the dying minutes of the game, but he, just like his Congolese counterparts, could also not keep his composure, and his weak shot ended up in the hands of the DRC goalkeeper.
The two sides could not be separated by the end of normal time, and therefore headed straight to a penalty shoot-out, where despite Teboho Mokoena’s first missed spot-kick, Bafana converted the rest of their attempts, while Williams made two spectacular saves to clinch third place.