Assistant coach Tenant Chilumba admitted his team was off form.
“I think we didn’t play well. South Africa is a very tactical team and you can’t take chances. We are out, very disappointing,” Chilumba said.
According to result on cosafa.com, South Africa came back from the shock of conceding an early goal to claim victory over Zambia and top the pool with seven points.
Vincent Kalinda had Zambia in the lead, but just minutes later Thando Buthelezi equalised for the South Africans with his second goal of the campaign.
Zambia had to push for the win to overhaul the Amajimbos at the top of the table, but were caught 10 minutes from time when Boitumelo Radiopane found a winner for the two-time champions.
South Africa will now await the best runner-up in the semifinals.