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South Africa set for first regional title v Malawi

© Reuters 2002

DURBAN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - South Africa should claim their first regional title on Saturday, finally ending a run of failures in the Cosafa Castle Cup.

South Africa host Malawi in the second leg of the final, leading 3-1 from last weekend's first game.

They have been the top-ranked side in the region over the last five years but had consistently failed to live up to their billing in previous competitions.

South Africa suffered embarrassing defeats by Namibia and Malawi and reached the semifinals just once, when they lost at home to Zimbabwe in 2000.

This year South Africa scraped through the first two rounds, needing penalty shootouts to see off unfancied opposition, but have since scored seven goals in two matches.

Coach Ephraim Mashaba, set for his first trophy after just two months in charge, has warned his players against complacency. "The mood is positive but anything is possible in football," he said. Mashaba is expected to shuffle his team to look at new combinations ahead of the African Nations Cup qualifier against Burundi in two weeks.

He has only home-based players for Saturday's while Malawi have a full-strength side for the game.

Malawi were disappointing in the first leg when a crowd of 60,000 rioted at the end of the match in reaction to the defeat.

Danish-born coach Kim Splidsboel suggested Saturday's game would provide an opportunity for several of his players to impress scouts from South African clubs, who have regularly signed Malawian talent over the last two decades.

He has dropped goalkeeper Navigator Dzinkambani, whose mistakes led to two of South Africa's goals in Blantyre, and four other players from the first leg squad.

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