Interim Amajita coach Helman Mkhalele made five changes to the team that lost 4-0 to the South Americans last week Wednesday at Saint George's Park.
The move paid dividends as the visitors were able to match their opponents from the word go, even though the home side looked more threatening going forward at at Harrison Park in Leek Town.
Early in the first half, Leo Thethani put in a good cross, but striker Lyle Foster could not connect well and the header went wide.
Shortly thereafter, Emile Smith Rowe should have put England in front after he beat the offside trap, but he shot wide with the keeper to beat.
South Africa took the lead when Foster beat the defence and calmly slotted at the bottom corner of the net past Joseph Bursik in the England goal in the 13thminute.
Just before the half-time break, a defensive error almost let England back into the match when the Amajita players missed an easy clearance, but the home side failed to capitalise, and instead shot wide.
The hosts made several substitutions at the beginning of the second stanza to try and take the game to South Africa.
This nearly worked as they piled on the pressure on Amajita, who were by now playing in their own half – England attacking from all angles, but Mkhalele’s charges stood firm.
Sensing danger, Mkhalele sent in Dylan Stoffels in place of Bafana Tshawe.
In the 60thminute, a well-taken free-kick by England was nicely saved by Glen Baadjies in the South African goal.
He was called again to save Amajita from a fierce shot by captain Danny Loader in a one-on-one situation.
At this time England were poking holes in the South African defence, who fought with everything they had to keep a clean sheet.
Amajita eased off the pressure when Forster, who was proving to be a thorn in the England defence, stole a ball just after the halfway line, sprinted goalward and laid it off for Tashreeq Matthews, who made no mistake as he gave South Africa a 2-0 lead.
Mkhalele introduced fresh legs and brought on Duncan Adonis and Brooklyn Poggenpoel for Luke le Roux and Keegan Allan respectively.
England, who drew 0-0 against Brazil on Friday, were now throwing everything at Amajita, and they were duly rewarded in referee’s optional time when second-half substitute Phil Foden found the back of the net to give his side some hope of rescuing the match.
But it was too little too late as the final whistle sounded afterwards – with South Africa claiming a 2-1 victory at Harrison Park.
Here’s how they lined up:
Joseph Burski (GK), Kane Wilson, Jake Vokins, Oliver Skipp, Joel Latibeaudiere, Lewis Gibson, Emile Smith Rowe, Matt O’Riley, Danny Loader (C), Nya Kirby, Aidan Barlow
Timothy, Eyoma, William Crellin, George McEachran, Jonathan Panzo, March Guehi, Phil Foden, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Angel Gomes
Head Coach: Steven Cooper
Glen Baadjies (GK), Keegan Allen (Brooklyn Poggenpoel), Malebogo Modise (C), Dean Solomons, Leseane Mokgopedi, Siphesihle Mkhize, Luke le Roux (Duncan Adonis), Leo Thethani (Sibusiso Shabane), Tashreeq Matthews, Bafana Tshawe (Dylan Stoffels), Lyle Foster
Phillip Lesoma (GK), Lethabo Mazibuko, Tyrique Bartlett, Duncan Adonis, Brooklyn Poggenpoel, Zwelihle Mthiyane, Sibusiso Shabane, Ngcebo Nala, Dylan Stoffels
Stand-in Head Coach: Helman Mkhalele