South Africa threatened first in the eighth minute, a fine pass from Hlompho Kekana releasing Tebogo Langerman down the left. His cross found Mpho Makola, but the Orlando Pirates mifielder’s shot was blocked.
Thulani Hlatshwayo and Langerman both went into the Gabonese referee’s book for late challenges before Mauritania went in front with their first meaningful attack in the 17th minute.
The visitors cut right through the heart of the Bafana defence and captain Dialo Guideye placed an excellent finish beyond the reach of Itumeleng Khune.
Bafana came roaring back and Makola found space on the edge of the area, his 25th minute shot pushed away for a corner by Mauritania ‘keeper Brahim Souleymane. There was nothing Souleymane could do just after, however, as Makola’s corner was headed down by Hlatshwayo and Kekana beat the ‘keeper to the ball to score from close range.
Mohamed Wade was booked for a late challenge on Makola, and then Kekana went close from further out in the 36th minute, one of his trademark rockets flying over the bar.
Mauritanian tempers started to fray, and Ismail Diakhite was booked for throwing the ball away.
In first half stoppage time, Thamsanqa Gabuza caught Wade ball-watching and sneaked in, but Souleymane blocked his shot on the edge of the area.
Souleymane injured himself in the process and had to be replaced at half time by Mohamed Boubacar.
Bafana started piling on the pressure in the second half, and Kekana had the ball in the net in the 52nd minute, but the linesman’s flag was up.
Bafana were awarded a penalty in the 56th minute as Makola played a terrific one-two with Sibusiso Vilakazi, and his shot was handled by a Mauritanian defender. But Boubacar saved Gabuza’s tame penalty.
The Orlando Pirates striker was soon taken off, Tokelo Rantie replacing him in the 61st minute. Six minutes later, Dean Furman came on to replace the goalscorer, Kekana.
Mauritania were reduced to ten men in the 75th minute as Dikahite got his second yellow card after blocking Khune from taking a goal kick.
Bafana continued to pour forward, but also continued to be let down by their finishing, Sibusiso Vilakazi curling over in the 81st minute.