South Africa produced some solid defence to keep England at bay
England: (14) 14
Pens: Goode 3
South Africa: (16) 25
Tries: Van der Linde
Pens: Pretorius 2
Drop: Pretorius 4
Coach Andy Robinson's future looks increasingly bleak after his struggling England side slumped to their eighth defeat in nine games on Saturday.
A Mark Cueto try and three Andy Goode penalties saw the world champions hold a 14-3 advantage after 30 minutes.
But South Africa led 16-14 at the break after two Andre Pretorius penalties and a barrelling CJ van der Linde try.
After the interval Pretorius, who had landed a first-half drop-goal, slotted three more to clinch victory.
It had all started so well for England, who were looking to add to their 23-21 win over South Africa last weekend.
They started much better than the Boks, who rested a number of first choice players for this tour, with three Goode penalties helping England into a 9-3 lead.
They looked sharp, the ball zipping down the line and giving Newcastle centre Mathew Tait several chances to take on the defence.
One fine pass from the 20-year-old put Ben Cohen in space, but the Northampton winger was hauled down.
England eventually created a chance for Goode to drop at goal, but he hooked the ball wide.
It took South Africa 26 minutes to mount their first serious attack, a knock-on halting a promising move started by a Ricky Januarie break.
And England made their dominance count after half an hour when Cueto was awarded a try.
Tait just failed to force his way over from a Goode cross-kick, but Cueto was on hand to pick up and go over, although he appeared to lose the ball in the act of scoring.
That was as good as it got for England, Goode's failure to land the conversion signalling the way the rest of the match was to go.
England's previously impressive discipline suddenly deserted them, enabling the Boks to trim the gap to 14-9 with two penalties.
And the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time when giant prop Van der Linde brushed aside Josh Lewsey's attempted hit as he rampaged over the line.
Pretorius slotted the conversion to give the Boks a two-point advantage.
South Africa extended their lead to five points after 48 minutes when Pretorius landed a drop goal.
England were given the chance to get back in the game just before the hour mark, but Goode failed with two penalty attempts.
Cueto then spilled the ball over the line after spectacularly taking a Goode cross-kick, but that seemed to be England's only real mode of attack.
After hooker Lee Mears had been held up just short of the line, a promising attack fizzled out when Goode attempted yet another cross-kick and the ball fell harmlessly to Francois Steyn.
England looked increasingly short of inspiration on the field and they seemed equally clueless off it, with the decision to bring on young fly-half Toby Flood with just three minutes to go particularly baffling.
He had no chance to influence the game, and two further drop goals from Pretorius guided South Africa home and left Robinson's reign as England boss hanging by a thread.
England: Lewsey; Cueto, Tait, Noon, Cohen; Goode, Richards; Vickery, Mears, White, Palmer, Jones, Worsley, Sanderson, Corry.
Replacements: Chuter, Payne, Kay, Moody, Perry, Flood, Van Gisbergen.
South Africa: Steyn; Ndungane, Olivier, De Villiers, Habana; Pretorius, Januarie; Van der Linde, Smit (capt), Botha, Ackermann, Muller, Floors, Smith, Rossouw.
Replacements: Ralepelle, Carstens, Van den Berg, Britz, Pienaar, J Pretorius, Fortuin.
Referee: Alan Lewis.