(CNN) -- The South African Football Association (SAFA) have appealed to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after the country failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations due to misinterpreting the tournament's rules.
South Africa celebrated on Saturday believing a 0-0 draw at home to Sierra Leone in Nelspruit had secured them top spot in qualification Group G due to their superior goal difference over their opponents and rivals Niger.
But it emerged Niger would advance to next year's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea as a result of their superior head-to-head record against South Africa and Sierra Leone, despite suffering a 3-0 defeat to bottom side Egypt in Cairo.
"We have noted that CAF has announced that Niger has qualified in our group," read a letter sent by SAFA to CAF. "Despite South Africa finishing on top of the group in terms of goal difference, which is the universally recognized means of separating teams who are equal on points.
"We believe that the team finishing top of the log at the end of the competition is automatically determined at the end of 90 minutes play, and that the second place is determined by the other rules.
"We will lay out our objection more fully shortly, but in the meantime wish to signal that we intend to challenge this interpretation and application of the rules."
SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani was defiant after the match, insisting the organization would challenge a lack of clarity in the tournament's rules.
"Do not despair, all is not lost," said Nematandani. "We believe we have a case and we will carry this fight all the way.
"If CAF's rules are ambiguous then we need to challenge that and we are well within our rights to do so. In the meantime be positive, and leave everything in our hands."
South Africa hosted football's biggest tournament last year when they became the first African country to stage a World Cup, but the team known as Bafana Bafana have now failed to reach two consecutive Cup of Nations.
It also proved to be a shocking qualifying campaign for Egypt, with the Pharaohs missing out on next year's event having won the last three tournaments in a row.
Egypt, the most successful team in the history of the Cup of Nations having won it seven times, recently appointed former U.S. coach Bob Bradley in an attempt to reverse their current fortunes.
Two-time winners Nigeria have also missed out on the 2012 competition after Guinea scored a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw on Saturday, to book their place in next year's tournament at the expense of the Super Eagles.