Leicester (16) 22
Try: Amorosino Con: Youngs Pens: Youngs (5)
South Africa (8) 17
Try: Nokwe Pens: Pienaar (4)
Leicester debutant Lote Tuqiri tries to get through the South Africa defence
Leicester produced an impressive display to claim a stunning win over world champions South Africa in front of a record crowd at Welford Road.
The Tigers, without five England stars and eight others, went 8-0 down through a penalty and Jongi Nokwe's try.
But the home side hit back to go 16-8 ahead, Lucas Amorosino scoring a try and Ben Youngs adding three penalties.
Six more points from Youngs put the Tigers in control, and the home side held on to seal the upset.
South Africa, who named five uncapped players in their XV, have November Tests against France, Italy and Ireland.
And following a successful year which saw them claim the Tri-Nations title and winning the series against the British and Irish Lions, South Africa were expected to stroll through this contest - which saw the offical unveiling of the new 10,000-seater Caterpillar Stand before kick-off.
Leicester were without the England quintet of Tom Croft, Lewis Moody, Jordan Crane, Dan Hipkiss and Louis Deacon while seven players were out injured.
Lock Ben Kay was also pulled from the Tigers XV at the last moment for unspecified reasons.
The record 24,000 sell-out crowd feared the worst when the tourists went 8-0 with the help of Nokwe, who gathered a Pienaar grubber kick to score.
But South Africa, who were getting flustered by the Leicester harrying, lost skipper Chiliboy Ralepelle to injury midway through the first half and on 27 minutes the game turned when wing Amorosino jinked through some poor Springbok defence to touch down under the posts.
Youngs scored his second and third penalties before the break and then another after half-time to make the score 19-11.
Former Australia winger Lote Tuqiri came on for his first Leicester start on 55 minutes and after Youngs found the posts again from the 10-metre line, Pienaar had to kick from very wide out to bring the deficit back to eight.
Pienaar reduced the gap to five from in front of the posts to increase the Welford Road nerves and to set up a five-minute period of intense South African pressure.
But Leicester held on and Tuqiri scrambled the ball out of touch to clinch the victory.
Leicester: Hamilton, Amorosino, Forsyth, M Tuilagi, Murphy, Mauger, Youngs, Stankovich, Davies, Castrogiovanni, Green, Hemingway, Parling, Pienaar, Deacon.
Replacements: Hammond for Deacon (13), Chuter for Davies (52), Tuqiri for Amorosino (55), Armes for Pienaar (61), Cole for Castrogiovanni (66).
South Africa: Rose, Ndungane, De Jongh, Olivier, Nokwe, Pienaar, Adams, Steenkamp, Ralepelle, Du Plessis, Rossouw, Bekker, Potgeiter, Raubenheimer, Johnson.
Replacements: Maku for Ralepelle (20), Van der Merwe for Steenkamp (43), Deysel for Raubenhemier (49), Hougaard for Adams (55), Hargreaves for Rossouw (60), Bosman for Olivier (64), Viljoen for Rose (70).
Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).