England's defence of the World Cup is coming apart at the seams
South Africa (20) 36
Tries: Smith, Pietersen 2
Cons: Montgomery 3
Pens: Montgomery 4, Steyn
South Africa dealt England's chances of defending the World Cup a major blow as they destroyed the reigning champions.
England trailed 20-0 at half-time as the Boks scored tries through Juan Smith and JP Pietersen in Paris.
South Africa continued to dominate after the break and Pietersen collected his second try, while Percy Montgomery kicked 18 points in all.
The Boks are all but certain to top the group, while England must beat Samoa to clinch a place in the knock-out stages.
South Africa played a fairly conservative gameplan, with a series of high kicks raining down on Jason Robinson.
But it meant they played the game deep in England territory and once they established a foothold they were far too good for the floundering champions.
It was the first World Cup defeat for England since Jannie de Beer kicked five drop-goals as the Springboks beat England 44-21, also at the Stade de France, in the 1999 quarter-finals just under eight years previously.
After that match England won seven out of their next eight matches against the Boks, including the pool game in the 2003 World Cup.
But it had been a different story in the previous three games before Friday's encounter and England never looked like re-writing the script once the game got under way.
South Africa were ahead after just four minutes as the Boks worked some space down the blind-side of a maul for Pietersen.
The young winger made good ground down the line before finding Fourie Du Preez in support and although Robinson managed to tap-tackle the scrum-half he kept his head and found Smith.
The flanker stormed over from the 22 and Montgomery landed the conversion to give the Boks the perfect start.
Within five minutes Matt Stevens was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck and the 20-year-old Francois Steyn drilled over the difficult penalty to make it 10-0.
England had the upper hand in the scrum but they were distinctly second best everywhere else, and the only time they came even remotely close to scoring was when Mike Catt missed with a long-range drop goal.
They could have conceded a second try, but Jaque Fourie knocked on as he stretched out to score after quick thinking from Du Preez, whose long kick down the middle found England napping.
Jason Robinson was forced off after appearing to pull a hamstring
South Africa continued to press, with Butch James pinning England back with some laser-guided kicks.
And although the Boks failed with three drop-goal attempts they edged further ahead through another Montgomery penalty after Stevens infringed again.
If England were to have any hope they needed to hold out to half-time, but a minute before the break the Boks struck for a second time.
Second row Ben Kay was turned over in midfield as another laboured England attack spluttered to a halt.
The Boks threw out a poor pass to Du Preez, but when Farrell missed with an attempted fly-hack the South Africa number nine was left with acres of space to attack.
He sliced through the first line of defence and drew Robinson before finding Pietersen in support and the wing loped over in splendid isolation, with Montgomery's conversion making it 20-0 at the break.
The Perpignan-bound full-back added two more penalties in the 15 minutes after the re-start and England's morale suffered another blow when Robinson limped off.
The former Great Britain rugby league star, who has already called time on his club career, appeared to pull a hamstring as he tried to make an outside break.
His departure was applauded by fans of both sides as they acknowledged what could be the end of a fine career in both rugby codes.
His departure made little difference to the course of the game and the Boks added a third try when the outstanding Du Preez once again attacked the blind-side and presented Pietersen with his second try on a plate.
Montgomery converted and added a late penalty to make it 36-0 and although England mounted a couple of late attacks South Africa had the extra satisfaction of keeping them scoreless.
The best England can now hope for is to finish second in the group, which would set up a likely quarter-final against the winner of Saturday's clash between Wales and Australia.
However, so poorly have England been playing that they must now approach the next match, against Samoa on 22 September, with real fear that the Pacific Islanders could end the champions' defence of the Webb Ellis trophy before the knock-out stages.
England: Robinson; Sackey, Noon, Farrell, Lewsey; Catt, Perry; Sheridan, Regan, Stevens; Shaw, Kay; Corry (capt), Rees, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Freshwater, Borthwick, Moody, Gomarsall, Richards, Tait.
South Africa: Montgomery; Pietersen, Fourie, Steyn, Habana; James, Du Preez; Du Randt, Smit (capt), BJ Botha, Bakkies Botha, Matfield, Van Heerden, Smith, Rossouw.
Replacements: Du Plessis, Van der Linde, Muller, Skinstad, Pienaar, Pretorius, Olivier.