South Africa saw off England with a 16-15 win on a grim Saturday at Twickenham, with a late rally from the hosts seeing them fall short.
Three penalties from Pat Lambie and a bizarre try from Willem Alberts handed the visitors the win, with Toby Flood and Owen Farrell accumulating five penalties between them.
England dominated territory and possession but were naive in attack, lacking direction and depth which made matters simple for the Springboks defence. Too often forwards were found in midfield when England needed a clinical line-breaker. The fact that Tom Youngs was the most effective Red Rose attacker said it all.
An interception break from Manu Tuilagi in the second half summed up their troubles perfectly; Chris Ashton choosing to not back his pace and ultimately seeing England plod forward into another turnover.
South Africa on the other hand were more patient, clinical and superior without anywhere near the same amount of possession - executing to greater effect when inside opposition territory in a replica performance from their victory over Ireland weeks earlier.
Controlling the line-out, they were spearheaded by the excellent Eben Etzebeth and made better use of their kicks to pin England back. Their scrum was also in the ascendancy as time ticked away, gaining the upper hand and reversing England's dominance from the first half.
Mike Brown's clean break in the opening minutes gave England valuable territory, with Toby Flood eventually converting a penalty after South Africa went offside near the posts.
Lambie tied the scores with his first kick of the afternoon but England regained the lead with a penalty from the game's first scrum, Flood returning to the field after being checked for concussion to grab the points.
A knock-on from Zane Kirchner inside his own 22 handed England an opportunity at the scrum - the returning Alex Corbisiero getting the edge over Jannie du Plessis - only for Flood to miss the simple kick wide to the right.
Persistent South African pressure in England's red zone then yielded a penalty for Lambie to give the visitors the lead for the first time at 6-9.
A fine offload from Joe Launchbury released Flood before Alex Goode burst upfield to bring Twickenham onto it's feet. But the chance was wasted after a grubber kick from Flood dribbled beyond the dead ball line. Key defence at the breakdown then helped both teams clear their lines before half-time.
The Springboks started the second half with a bang and after setting up camp in the England 22 scored a bizarre try. Ben Youngs' box kick ricocheted forward off JP Pietersen, with Tom Wood fumbling the ball which dropped into the hands of Alberts who burrowed over for the opening try.
Farrell replaced a wayward Flood and drew England within seven points with a penalty after 60 minutes and then added another as the match went into the closing stages, giving England a chance as they moved within four points.
Faced with a tough decision inside Springbok territory with two minutes left, Farrell brought England within a single point with another penalty kick rather than opting for the corner. Unable to win the restart, South Africa closed out the match and remain unbeaten in November.
Man of the match: One big performance from Eben Etzebeth, dominant in the skies and a joint top tackler with 16.
Moment of the match: England may well regret their decision for points over the corner as the clock ran out.
Villain of the match: Aimless kicking. It entertains nobody and transforms games from spectacles to duds.
Pen: Flood 2, Farrell 3
For South Africa:
Pen: Lambie 3
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
By Ben Coles at Twickenham