Joel Santana's reign as the head coach of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts, South Africa came to an end today as the Brazilian-born coach reached an 'amicable' decision with the country's football governing body, SAFA, to step down with immediate effect.

The decision, announced at a press conference at SAFA's headquarters in Johannesburg, comes amid a spate of poor results for the South Africans who have lost eight of their last nine matches under Santana. The two assistant coaches, Pitso Mosimane and Jairo Leal will take over the reins in the meantime as the South Africans will now embark on a new search for a coach to lead them to the FIFA World Cup on home soil.

SAFA president, Kirsten Nematandani said that he believes the decision to be in the "best interest of the team" as the South Africans prepare for the FIFA World Cup next year.

"After a long management meeting today, the association and Mr Santana reached an amicable decision to part ways," he said.  "We all felt this was at the best interest of the team going forward. We want to take this opportunity to thank him for his services and wish him all the best in his future coaching endeavours."

"Our job is now to look for a new coach. We will look both locally and internationally for the right man to lead this team. We will meet again on Friday and look at some recommendations. At the moment, I can't say much about that process."

Following their gutsy performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup, South Africa underwent a loss of form and were defeated in all of their subsequent matches, with the exception of a narrow 1-0 victory over Madagascar.

Speculation about Santana's future reached fever pitch when SAFA appointed a group of three technical assessors, comprising two former South African head coaches, Clive Barker and Jomo Sono. Supersport United coach Gavin Hunt was the other member of the trio.

At the press conference, Nematandani refuted claims that it was the trio who had recommended the sacking of Santana. "Their job was not to give a report on the coach, they were only asked to assess the team -and they have done just that."

Santana, who had no previous international experience prior to taking the job, replaced countryman Carlos Alberto Parreira in April 2008.