Johannesburg: South African football officials have belatedly apologised for a schoolboy error that cost the team qualification for next year`s African Nations Cup but they will not fire their errant coach.
"We are profoundly sorry for letting the nation down," South African FA (SAFA) president Kirsten Nematandani told a news conference on Wednesday some 10 days after a failure to read the rules saw the country miss out on the 2012 finals.
South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane believed they would top their group on goal difference and qualify if they drew at home with Sierra Leone but in fact their 0-0 draw earlier this month allowed unfancied Niger to finish first on their head-to-head results after the three teams finished on the same points.
SAFA immediately appealed to the Confederation of African Football claiming the rules were poorly worded, a move seen as a frivolous attempt to cover their own tracks.
But on Wednesday the domestic governing body said it had withdrawn the appeal. "Our best endeavor now is to make sure that this doesn`t happen again," added Nematandani.
Mosimane will keep his job despite not knowing the rules after SAFA said he was not to blame and it was rather due to the collective failure of the entire national team management.
It was the first public comment from Nematandani since he embarrassingly congratulated his players on television after the Sierra Leone game in the mistaken belief they had qualified.
However, Mosimane continues to refuse interviews requests and did not attend Wednesday`s news conference.
"We accepted his apology to the association and have undertaken to give him the support he needs to build Bafana Bafana into a winning team," SAFA chief executive officer Robin Petersen added.
South Africa have now set their sights on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals and have drawn lowly-ranked opponents.
They start in the second round next June against Botswana, the Central African Republic and the winner of next month`s first round tie between Ethiopia and Somalia.