Danie Rossouw and Ruan Pienaar made the most of missed tackles and a charged down kick with Adrian Jacobs adding a well-constructed third early in the second half before Jacque Fourie and Bryan Habana streaked in at the death. Pienaar converted three times and added three penalties.
England again created opportunities but were denied by some dogged defending and Danny Cipriani’s (wearing his Canterbury Ventilator rugby headguard) two penalties were their only reward for a frustrating afternoon.
England opened brightly enough, Cipriani drilling over an early penalty and even though Pienaar replied swiftly they were pressing for a second score when the shape of the game was changed by two unforced errors.
Habana hacked the loose ball clear and while Borthwick (wearing his Kooga Shadow rugby headguard) was able to hold the ball up over his own line, three defenders – Cipriani, Riki Flutey and Jamie Noon – couldn’t stop Rossouw ploughing over from the five metre scrum that followed.
Pienaar converted, then charged down Cipriani’s kick on half-way for a second try in nine minutes and gleefully added the extra points for a 17-3 lead inside 20 minutes.
They protected the lead brilliantly five minutes later, when Danny Care’s (Wearing his Nike T90 Laser II rugby boots) quickly taken penalty unleashed Armitage down the right, only for lock Bakkies Botha to steam across and make the saving tackle.
Pienaar’s second penalty followed through, and although Cipriani replied 10 minutes before the interval England could not make any more progress despite the Springboks losing Tendai Mtawarira to the sin-bin.
England produced a long spell of pressure early in the second half without getting over the line and they were given a lesson in how to create and take opportunities when Jacobs added a third try.
An attacking lineout saw JP Pietersen come inside from his wing and his offload found Jacobs running a superb line back against the grain to beat Toby Flood – on for Flutey – and beat Paul Sackey’s tackle to score.
Pienaar’s conversion left England 27-6 down with nearly half-an-hour remaining and he added a penalty 13 minutes later to put the visitors out of sight.
They lost Conrad Nantjes to the sin-bin, though, for blocking Armitage as he chased his own chip ahead but still couldn’t find a way through against some determined defending with Botha outstanding.
And when England spilled the ball late on, South Africa went the length of the field for Fourie to add a dispiriting fourth touchdown before Habana (Wearing his Adidas Predator Powerswerve Rugby Boots) completed the job in injury time.
England will need to bounce back fast as next week they face the New Zealand All Blacks at Twickenham who are hunting a European grand slam tour.
England: Delon Armitage (London Irish); Paul Sackey (London Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons), Riki Flutey (London Wasps; Toby Flood 30), Ugo Monye (Harlequins); Danny Cipriani (London Wasps), Danny Care (Harlequins; Harry Ellis, Leicester Tigers, 66); Tim Payne (London Wasps), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby; Dylan Hartley, Northampton Saints 58), Phil Vickery (London Wasps; Matt Stevens, Bath Rugby 53), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Tom Palmer (London Wasps; Simon Shaw, London Wasps, 32), James Haskell (London Wasps), Tom Rees (London Wasps), Nick Easter (London Wasps).
Replacements: Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers).
Scorers: Penalties: Cipriani 2.
South Africa: Conrad Jantjes; JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs (Jaque Fourie 58), Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar (Francois Steyn 64), Ricky Januarie; Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit (capt), Jannie du Plessis (Brian Mujati 67), Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Danie Rossouw (Chiliboy Ralepelle, 33-40, Ryan Kankowski 58), Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow.
Scorers: Tries: Rossouw, Pienaar, Jacobs, Fourie, Habana. Conversions: Pienaar 3, Steyn. Penalties: Pienaar 3.
Yellow card: Mtawarira 30, Nantjes.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU). Attendance: 81113