South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football and will be looking to regain the crown they lost to Zambia and Mozambique in the previous two editions.
They have claimed the competition eight times in all, with their first title coming in 2000. They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
The added carrot for them again this year is continental qualification when they feature in the TotalEnergies AFCON U20 Egypt 2023 | COSAFA Qualifier in Eswatini from October 7-16.
The side have qualified for the Africa Under-20 Championships on eight previous occasions, winning the silver medal in 1997. They finished third in 2019 and have two fourth-place finishes (2009 and 2017).
It will be a tough road this time round after they were drawn in a competitive Group C along with Malawi, Namibia and Comoros.
The top side in each pool advances to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up, and the two finalists will appear at the TotalEnergies AFCON U20 Egypt 2023 early next year.
That competition in turn is the qualification route for the 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia, where the leading four sides will head to Asia.
The team will be led by Vela Khumalo, who has experience in COSAFA competition with junior national teams. He is also a reserve coach at Kaizer Chiefs
South Africa went all the way to the final on home soil in 2016, playing some scintillating football, but lost out to Zambia in the decider with a 2-1 defeat. That was seen as a major disappointment, but they atoned for that with a run all the way to the gold medal in 2017.
After topping their pool with a full haul of nine points, ‘Amajita’ edged North African guest nation Egypt 1-0 in the semifinals.
That set up a decider with Lesotho and South African emerged as 2-1 winners to take home the trophy.
They repeated that triumph in 2018, topping their shortened pool with victories over Mauritius and Eswatini, before a 1-0 win over Angola in the semifinals.
That set up a final with old foes Zimbabwe and after the match finished 1-1, South Africa claimed the penalty shoot-out 4-3.
They could not make it a hat-trick of titles though as they lost 3-0 in the 2019 final to Zambia.
They managed seven points in their first round pool and then edged Madagascar 5-4 on penalties in the semifinals following a 2-2 draw. They had also drawn 1-1 with the Malagasy in pool play.
The side disappointed in 2020 with a first group stage exit in almost a decade, where a win over Lesotho (7-0) was coupled with draws against Zimbabwe (2-2) and Mozambique (0-0) as they finished runners-up in the pool
SOUTH AFRICA FINISHES IN LAST 23 YEARS
1999 – Runners-up
2000 – Winners
2001 – Fourth
2002 – Third
2003 – Third
2004 – Winners
2005 – Fourth
2006 – Winners
2007 – Runners-up
2008 – Winners
2009 – Winners
2010 – Group stages
2011 – Group stages
2013 – Winners
2016 – Runners-up
2017 – Winners
2018 – Winners
2019 – Runners-up
2020 – Group stages