South Africa beat defending champions and 11-time winners Nigeria 2-1 in the two countries opening match of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco ©Getty Images

Defending champions Nigeria suffered a 2-1 defeat against South Africa in their opening match of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Rabat for the second consecutive tournament. 

South Africa struck twice in three minutes early in the second half of this Group C match at the Stade Moulay Hassan before a late consolation for the 11-time winners.

Jermaine Seoposenwe put the South Africans ahead in the 60th minute and, two minutes later, Hilda Magaia doubled their lead in this rematch of the 2018 final in Accra, when Nigeria had won on penalties.

Nigeria pulled a goal back two minutes into injury time, thanks to an incredible finish by Rasheedat Ajibade, but it was too late as South Africa held on to claim the three points.

South Africa’s coach Desiree Ellis, a founding member of Banyana Banyana, hailed her side at the end of a match where they had enjoyed 61 per cent possession.

"This is a very big win for us as a team," Ellis said.

"We needed to get this result because it sets the tone for the rest of the tournament.

"We had a meeting before we started training to talk about our goals and ambitions.

"We want to qualify for the World Cup and win the title here.

"We know what happened in 2018, but we have matured over the past four years and there are changes in our team.

"Jermaine played about four positions today.

"That is the versatility we have now as a team.

"This victory is for everyone back home and for all the coaches.

"This is for everyone connected to women’s football back home."

If Nigeria are looking for good omens, however, it will come in the fact they were also beaten by South Africa in the opening match of the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana but went on to lift the trophy.

"Despite the loss, we are still positive in camp," Nigeria’s American coach Randy Waldrum said.

"It is obviously the first game of the tournament, so we have to go back and regroup.

"We have to increase our urgency in the fighting spirit because we are encouraged by it.

"We have to play the way we played in the last 10-15 minutes so that we get going."

In the day’s other Group C match in Rabat, debutants Botswana beat Burundi 4-2.

Keitumetse Dithebe put Botswana in front in the 43rd minute and Lesego Radiakanyo made it two four minutes after half-time.

Burundi then pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute through Sandrine Niyonkuru before Botswana restored their two-goal advantage when Refilwe Thokalele scored three minutes later.

Thokalele hit her second goal in the 60th minute before Niyonkuru scored her second nine minutes from the end.

The second round of Group A matches are due to take place in Rabat tomorrow with leaders Senegal taking on third-placed Burkina Faso and Uganda meeting hosts Morocco.