Future World Cup hosts South Africa fielded 10 new caps as they edged past Malawi 5-4 on penalties in their Cosafa Castle Cup Group B semi-final at Swaziland's Somhlolo stadium on Saturday.
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira used the match in the annual southern African championship to experiment with fringe players but had to go through a tense shootout after a goalless draw before seeing his young side advance to Sunday's final.
South Africa will meet Mauritius in the Group B decider after the Indian Ocean islanders upset hosts Swaziland in Saturday's second semi-final.
Mauritius also needed a shootout to progress, winning 6-5 on penalties after another 0-0 draw.
"It's a way to build for the future," said Parreira, ''but we struggled to keep possession and only made chances in the second half.'' South Africa had the best chances but were denied twice inside three minutes midway through the second half by sharp saves from Malawi's Simoen Kapuza.
Malawi, who fielded a full strength side, were playing their first game under new English coach Steven Constantine.
Mauritius, searching for their first win in more than a two years, weathered an early Swazi onslaught to settle for penalties where their inexperienced goalkeeper Yannick Macoa made two stops to hand them a place in the final.
The group winners progress to the semi-finals of the regional competition for which Mozambique and Zambia have already qualified.