Having gone down to Wales in Washington last weekend, new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus picked up his first success at the helm thanks to a stunning fightback after the Boks had gone 24-3 behind with less than a quarter of the match having been played.
England were quick out the blocks with three converted tries in a matter of 16 minutes through wing Mike Brown, fullback Elliot Daly and flyhalf Owen Farrell.
In addition to Farrell’s three conversions, Daly added a penalty from in excess of 60m out which gave Eddie Jones’ side a 21-point advantage which left the home crowd stunned.
To their credit, the Boks stormed back with four tries of their own in a matter of 19 minutes through man-of-the-match scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, a brace from debutant wing S’bu Nkosi and fullback Willie le Roux.
Flyhalf Handre Pollard added three conversions and a penalty, while Farrell added a late three-pointer to see South Africa go into the half-time break 29-27 ahead.
The second half was more of a cut-and-thrust affair with a 51th-minute penalty by Pollard extending the Boks’ lead to five.
Crucially, a yellow card to England loosehead Mako Vunipola, playing in his 50th Test, saw the visitors reduced to 14 men in the 63rd minute.
The Boks were quick to capitalise, scoring their fifth try of the night immediately thereafter by another debutant, home-town wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, while Pollard made no mistake with the conversion to extend the home side’s lead to a handy 12 points.
To their credit, England were next on the scoreboard – while still down a man – as lock Maro Itoje scored close to a ruck. Farrell failed to land the conversion.
Replacement front-rower Steven Kitshoff won a vital penalty in the 76th minute which Pollard made no mistake with.
England speedster Jonny May then gave the home crowd an anxious last few minutes with a breath-taking mazy run to score under the posts. Farrell added the conversion via a drop goal as England closed to within three points.
Alas, the fightback was not to be as the Boks ran down the clock to extend England’s 2018 misery to five consecutive defeats.
The sides will next do battle at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein next Saturday, with the third and final Test scheduled for Newlands in Cape Town on June 23.
Tries: Faf de Klerk, S’bu Nkosi (2), Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi
Conversions: Handre Pollard (4)
Penalties: Pollard (3)
Tries: Mike Brown, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Johnny May
Conversions: Owen Farrell (4)
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant
15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 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
Substitutes: 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. — Sport24