Chris Dry opened the scoring for the Blitzboks after some good interplay with Kwagga Smith as SA led 5-0.
England struck straight back through a try from Richard de Carpentier as he showed a good turn of pace to break away from the Blitzboks’ defence and score under the posts. England led 7-5.
Rosko Specman provided a piece of individual brilliance after the interval, with a perfectly-weighted kick over the England defence before gathering and finishing off under the uprights. Branco du Preez added the extra two to square the match at 12-all.
England burst back into the lead soon after as Ruaridh McConnochie made a good gather out wide and crashed over for the try. The conversion from Tom Mitchell was nailed from the touchline as England moved into a 19-12 lead.
With time up on the clock Werner Kok (left) scored in the corner, leaving Justin Geduld the chance to level the scores from the touchline, but the conversion attempt was wide.
Earlier, the hosts beat Wales in the last-eight and New Zealand in the semifinal. The series moves onto Wellington next month.