Bafana Bafana nervilly scraped past Benin by winning 2-1 in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
Percy Tau and Khuliso Mudau scored apiece in the first half to see Mzansi go top of Group C with these maximum points.
But it was far from ideal as in the second half the tempo dropped, allowing Benin to get the sniff of the game and they made it that count when Steve Mounie pulled one back for the visitors in the 70th minute.
Afterward, things became shaky for Bafana and their tempo. Being on top of the first half and deservedly with two goals to show, they were profligacy at the back and against better-organised sides it could have been a different ball game.
The win sees Bafana end their long-standing negative record in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, ending 19 years of wait for an opening win in the group stages.
The South African senior national team had failed to start the past four World Cup qualifying campaigns with an opening win in the group stages since they beat Cape Verde in June 2004, when former Bafana captain Mbulelo Mabizela scored twice for Stuart Baxter’s side.
Benin coach Gernot Rohr spoke about taking care of Tau in the build-up to the game and clearly, he knew how dangerous he was.
Tau showed his qualities as he clipped the opener, as he scored also the last time Bafana played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in 2020 when they beat Sao Tome 2-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in the 2021 edition.
Mothobi Mvala almost cost Bafana at the back, toe-poking the ball in the middle and did not go far. It allowed Ronwen Williams to clear the danger by palming it away.
Tau continued to have those mazy runs towards the box, turning his marker but his shot was palmed away for a corner by Benin goalie Saturin Allagbe.
Five minutes before half-time, Mokoena picked the unmarked Tau inside the box, but the Al Ahly attacker was let down by the first touch.
Bafana doubled the lead as Mudau blasted the second in front of the empty net in the added time of the first half after Benin was caught flat at the back.
The volume of more than 10,000 fans was left buzzing and singing as they had not seen Bafana play this well for the longest time in an official match in these parts.
As Bafana was 2-0 to the goods, the tempo was no longer the same in the second half. Going forward, there will be concerned for coach Broos as Evidence Makgopa picked up an ankle injury and had to be taken off in the 52nd minute and replaced by his team-mate Zakhele Lepasa.
Mounie finished off well a pull-back of Jodel Dossou in the 70 minute, raising an anxiety in the stands and some thought “we have seen this movie before” as their tempo completely dropped.
Broos brought further changes by taking off Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Themba Zwane and replacing them with Sbongiseni Mthethwa and Mihlali Mayambela in trying to inject some life into the side. It helped him to see the game out.
Bafana’s next game in these qualifiers will be against Rwanda in Butare on Tuesday.