Banyana Banyana overcame a stubborn Zimbabwe with a close 2-1 win in the Beijing Olympics qualifying first found, first leg game at Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria yesterday.
They will meet "The Mighty Warriors" in a return encounter in Harare in two weeks' time.
Banyana looked hungrier as they searched for an early lead by launching numerous attacks from the onset and outclassed their opponents with crisp and dangerous moves.
As early as the 13th minute the hosts almost forged ahead when Bongiwe Radebe's cross was headed for a goal by Nomaxabiso Manto whose attempt was cleared away on the goal line by Zimbabwean's Melody Musasa.
The South Africans, led by Veronica Phewa, enjoy territorial advantage, but the Zimbabweans denied them scoring chances.
The Zimbabweans had their chances to find the net but were stopped on their tracks by Banyana's solid defence led by Janine Van Wyk.
As the game progressed Banyana replaced the exhausted Manto with Belinda Nkosi in the 30th minute.
The change bore fruit for Banyana when Nkosi was fouled by Zimbabwean defender Melody Musasa in the box and referee Passy Blanche from Congo pointed to the penalty spot in the 39th minute.
Striker Nompumelelo Nyandeni stepped up and sent Zimbabwe goalminder Onai Chingawo the wrong way from the resultank kick.
The visitors came back strongly in the second half as they stretched Banyana's defence with remarkable moves.
Striker Ntombiyelanga Ndlovu of Zimbabwe,who fumbled an earlier strike, made amends three minutes into this half when she equalised (1-1).
But Banyana upped the gear and were rewarded in the 55th minute when Van Wyk's rasping shot sailed into the net to regain the lead. Midway through this half the match became more fascinating as both sides dished out good football much to the delight of the enthusiastic fans.