South Africa came from 21 points behind to secure an excellent 42-39 triumph over England at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
In a breathless encounter, the visitors produced some scintillating rugby to go 24-3 in front through Mike Brown, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell converted tries, while their full-back added a further three points from the tee.
However, back came the Springboks in similarly thrilling fashion and they were incredibly 29-27 ahead by the interval as Faf de Klerk, Sbu Nkosi (twice) and Willie le Roux all crossed the whitewash.
Handre Pollard then made it a five-point game in the second period before Aphiwe Dyantyi touched down to seemingly take the match away from the Red Rose.
Maro Itoje’s effort got the visitors back to within seven but Pollard completed the win with a three-pointer, despite Jonny May’s late try.
This was a raw South Africa side and they showed their naivety early on, conceding a needless infringement which allowed Daly a shot at goal from over 60 metres. Despite the distance, it was straight in front and, at altitude, the full-back superbly slotted the penalty.
The hosts had two debutants on the wing and it showed, with the Red Rose continually exposing the two-time World Cup winners in the outside channels.
From the restart, the visitors moved the ball wide and May sped down the right. The Red Rose kept their composure and the much-maligned Brown displayed excellent strength and finishing skills to touch down in the left-hand corner.
Although the Springboks hit back via Pollard’s penalty, England were finding numerous holes in the opposition defence and a well-timed George Ford pass sent May free, who duly gave Daly a simple try.
The English were rampant and another score was forthcoming as the Leicester wing was provided further freedom on the right and he gave the supporting Farrell an easy run to the line.
Rassie Erasmus’ charges were 24-3 behind but, to their credit, they responded excellently and the busy De Klerk crossed the whitewash. Following an awful opening by the hosts, the momentum began to switch and a poor mistake by Daly saw Nkosi touch down to reduce the arrears to 24-15.
Le Roux was starting to show his quality while Duane Vermeulen was becoming more of a threat at the breakdown and, as a result, it earned them crucial possession and territory.
The backs benefited with two quick-fire tries from Nkosi and his full-back team-mate as the home side remarkably moved in front for the first time in the match.
England were shell-shocked but Mako Vunipola earned a penalty, which Farrell kicked, to leave them two points in arrears at the break.
Eddie Jones’ outfit failed to improve in the initial stages of the second period as RG Snyman displayed his outstanding athleticism before eventually being hauled down.
The visitors were conceding a number of poor penalties and, although Pollard missed one opportunity, the fly-half made no mistake minutes later to restore their five-point buffer.
Despite the tempo remaining high, errors began to creep into the game and for England, ill-discipline particularly killed them. Prop Vunipola was yellow carded and, under pressure, they yielded once again when Dyantyi scored.
Itoje responded for England but Pollard was on target from the tee late on to seal the victory, despite May’s breakaway effort with two minutes remaining.
For South Africa:
Tries: De Klerk, Nkosi 2, Le Roux, Dyantyi
Cons: Pollard 4
Pens: Pollard 3
Tries: Brown, Daly, Farrell, Itoje, May
Cons: Farrell 4
Pens: Daly, Farrell
Yellow Card: M Vunipola
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’busiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane/Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw/Thomas du Toit, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Mike Brown, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)