Bafana Bafana were left shell-shocked after minnows Rwanda handed them a 2-0 defeat in the qualifiers for the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Butare, Rwanda on Tuesday.
South Africa have now dropped from number one to second, with Rwanda now leading Group C after the first two round of matches.
The South Africans are sitting on three points from their win against Benin on Saturday with Rwanda now topping the table with four points gained via Tuesday’s win and the draw against Zimbabwe last week.
When the referee Mohammed Omar blew the final whistle, the Rwanda capacity crowd celebrated like they had won the World Cup – their fans went berserk, and they chanted wildly and animatedly, after scoring their biggest win in history, which is also their first victory since 2021.
The weather conditions were terrible, with the incessant rain creating horrific playing conditions on the ageing artificial pitch.
Even though the groundsmen tried their best to make the ground at least playable, the waterlogged pitch had big puddles, and this resulted in SA players struggling to play their normal style of flowing football.
The Rwandans benefitted much better as they threw everything forward and just waited to catch the South Africans flat-footed and to force them to commit mistakes.
The tactic paid off in the 12th minute when Innocent Nshuti capitalised on a mistake from Nkosinathi Sibisi and rifled the ball the home, sending the crowd into a state of frenzy, their first goal at home since June 2021.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ red-hot defender Khuliso Mudau was the next player who was forced to commit an error.
With full control of the ball, poor communication between him and his goalkeeper Ronwen Williams resulted in Gilbert Mugisha sneaking in from behind and slotting the ball into the net, making it 2-0 on the half-hour mark.
The South Africans looked defeated and finished going forward.
Bafana coach Hugo Broos was so livid that he went straight to the changerooms after the 90 minutes.
In all fairness, despite Rwanda’s heroics and bravery on the day, Bafana players and coaching staff know that they wasted a great opportunity to make life easy for themselves, when the business end of the qualifiers will arrive in two years’ time.
The next round of qualifiers will be played next year in June and the likes of Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, who are also in our group, will come rejuvenated after they started the qualifiers on the back-foot.