Bafana Bafana failed in their two major assignments in 2021, which were to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon and advance to the third stage of the 2022 Fifa World Cup preliminaries.
Despite this, there were green shoots of hope with a young squad emerging that could potentially restore some pride for the national side in the future.
TimesLIVE looks back at their year in numbers.
0 — The number of goals Bafana conceded from open play in their last 12 internationals of the year, an incredible record of defensive stability. The two goals they let in during that period were via a direct free-kick against Ethiopia and a penalty versus Ghana. That is around 19 hours of football without conceding from open play.
1 — Striker Victor Letsoalo became the first man ever to score a hat-trick on Bafana debut when he netted three times versus Lesotho in the Cosafa Cup. It was the second time in 29 years and 399 Bafana games that a player scored a hat-trick for the national team after Benni McCarthy got four against Namibia at the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations.
1 — The fewest number of minutes handed to a Bafana player was one for Mduduzi Mdantsane when he came on as a late substitute in the home World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe. It was his debut and remains his only minute in a national team jersey.
4 —The number of head coaches Bafana had in the dug-out in 2021. They started the year with Molefi Ntseki, who was sacked following the team’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup finals. Hugo Broos was appointed as his replacement, but Helman Mkhalele took charge of the 3-2 friendly win over Uganda. When Mkhalele tested positive for Covid-19, Morena Ramoreboli took the side to the Cosafa Cup title. Broos took full control of the team from the start of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
4 — Bafana’s biggest win in 2021 was their 4-0 Cosafa Cup victory over Lesotho. Their biggest defeat was the 2-0 loss in Sudan in the Nations Cup qualifiers.
5 — Bafana lifted the Cosafa Cup for the fifth time in their history in 2021, defeating west African guest nation Senegal on penalties in the final. Bafana did not conceded a single goal on their way to the title. That moves them level with Zambia on five wins, and one behind all-time leaders Zimbabwe with six.
13 — The number of points Bafana managed in their World Cup qualification pool, eventually missing out on top spot by one goal scored. The only pool winners with fewer points were DR Congo in Group J, who topped that mini-league with 11 points.
15 — The total number of matches Bafana played in 2021, starting and finishing with Ghana. They played in the Nations Cup qualifiers (two), Cosafa Cup (six), World Cup qualifiers (six) and had one friendly clash against Uganda. They managed nine wins, four draws and were defeated twice. Bafana played Ghana the most times (three), with a win, draw and a loss in those matches.
19 — The number of goals scored by Bafana in 2021. Players to score more than once were Letsoalo (four), Evidence Makgopa (three), Bongokuhle Hlongwane (two) and Teboho Mokoena (two).
55 — The number of players used by Bafana in 2021. This is excessively high with the large overhaul of the squad started by Broos when he took over. Many players who featured under Ntseki were not retained as Broos looked to start afresh.
818 — Bafana set a new team record for the longest stretch without conceding a goal, which finally came to an end with Getaneh Kebede’s superb free-kick for Ethiopia in Bahir Dar and was capped at 818 minutes, or almost 14 hours. The previous record before this run was 693 minutes set between 1996 and 1997.
1,107 — The number of minutes played by Rushine de Reuck for Bafana in 2021, the most of any player. The Mamelodi Sundowns defender certainly took his chance when selected for the friendly with Uganda and played in every game after that. Second on the list is full-back Nyiko Mobbie (1,020), who started in the left-back position before being moved to the right.