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2014-11-15 23:00

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Bafana book their spot at Afcon 2015, Boks regroup after Ireland defeat

Despite Bafana Bafana having sealed their berth at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba says he will field a strong team against Nigeria on Wednesday in the last match of their qualifying campaign.

South Africa face the Super Eagles at Akwa Ibom Stadium in Uyo in a game Nigeria needs to win to stand a chance of defending their Afcon title.

Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville, who are vying for the second spot, have everything to play for on Wednesday. Congo has to beat Sudan and hope Bafana get a result in Nigeria for them to qualify.

Bafana’s 2-1 victory over Sudan, courtesy of Thulani Serero and Tokelo Rantie’s goals in each half, respectively, took their points tally to 11, while Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville are both on seven apiece with one game left to play.

Nigeria beat Congo 2-0 while Sudan have been eliminated from the race to Equatorial Guinea.

“We want to end the qualifiers without a loss and we are going to Nigeria for a win. We know they will come at us as they need a victory but we will be prepared,” said Mashaba after the game.

The coach praised his players for showing character and the will to win, particularly in the dying stages of the game when they were under immense pressure from Sudan.

Captain Dean Furman said getting the armband was the proudest moment of his life, adding there were more leaders on the field who helped his cause.

It is the first time in six years Bafana have qualified – not by default as hosts – for a major tournament.

For Mashaba, today’s win was the second time he had taken Bafana to Afcon. He did so in 2003 but was relieved of his duties before the start of the tournament in Tunisia in 2004.

After dancing to the wrong tune at Mbombela Stadium in 2011, and after the sombre mood following the shock death of captain Senzo Meyiwa, Bafana had something to cheer about.

This was also Bafana’s first victory at home in three outings after they drew with Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville.

They initially struggled to unlock Sudan and it was only until they scored the opening goal in the 38th minute that they showed signs of playing with purpose. They spent too much time playing at the back as Sudan loaded their defence.

It took Serero’s goal to get Bafana into gear as they pushed forward for another goal.

Rantie, who was earlier let down by poor decision-making in front of goal, was a constant thorn in the visitors’ side.

Bafana should have been two up at the break, but Bongani Ndulula missed the target with the goal at his mercy.

Bafana continued where they left off in the first half. Rantie was in the thick of things immediately as he netted in the 53rd minute after he was set up by Serero.

Bafana endured a nervy finish, but it mattered little in the end as they sealed their qualification for the big tournament.

– Timothy Molobi

Bok centre Jan Serfontein celebrates as he runs in the opening try during the match against England. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Boks regroup after Ireland defeat

A clinical drop goal by Patrick Lambie made the crucial difference at Twickenham as the Springboks maintained the Indian sign they have held over England since 2006.

In a rousing test match, the Boks built up a substantial lead of 20-6, only to see England fight back and level the scores after 48 minutes.

A yellow card shown to Victor Matfield plus an error by one of the assistant referees, when he ruled that Bryan Habana had not shepherded the ball into touch, giving a crucial throw-in to England, might undo the Boks. But they fought back valiantly while down to 14 men.

England’s tactics often involved trying to bring their rock of a No?8, Billy Vunipola, or one of the other forwards crashing on to the ball off scrum half Danny Care, but it tended to be ineffective in the face of heavy tackling by the Boks.

It also cost England the first try of the game when Jan Serfontein, who had clearly picked up on Care’s habit of taking a few steps before passing, intuitively read a pass to intercept the ball and sprint 41m for a try at the posts in the 16th minute.

Clearly smarting after the Ireland defeat, the Boks played with greater cohesion and concentration to knock down anything that moved in a white shirt, and seemed unperturbed that England held an advantage in territory and possession in the first half.

The Boks tended to kick the ball too deep to put pressure on fullback Mike Brown but they got it spot-on right after the restart.

Lambie weighted his chip over the top perfectly, Willie le Roux received then fed Cobus Reinach on the outside to allow the scrum half to use his pace to carry the ball over the goal line.

The try carried the Boks into a 20-6 lead but any thoughts they might have had of going into cruise control were immediately turned on its head in a few riotous minutes.

Matfield was yellow-carded for pulling down a maul and in the space of three minutes, England rumbled over for two driving tries by David Wilson and Ben Morgan, levelling the scores.

Although the Boks were hard done by when Kiwi touch judge Nick Briant ruled Habana had not legally taken a ball into touch, Jean de Villiers rallied his men to fight back.

Down a man, the South Africans constructed a fine driving maul to get Schalk Burger over the line and reclaim the lead.

England were unable to get back on terms and Lambie’s drop after the ball had been taken through 10 phases made the eventual difference, as Chris Robshaw’s men tried mightily to avoid losing back-to-back games against the giants of the southern hemisphere, having narrowly lost to the All Blacks last Saturday.

South African-born centre Brad Barritt skidded over in the corner for England’s final try but the home side had run out of time and the Boks redeemed themselves for their poor showing against Ireland.

The next stop for the Boks on their northern hemisphere tour is Padova on Saturday, when they take on Italy, who went down 18-20 to Argentina on Friday night.

Meanwhile, New Zealand beat Scotland 24-16 in Edinburgh.

– Dan Retief

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