South Africa claimed a convincing 107-run victory as England collapsed again on the fourth day of the first Test in Centurion.
The tourists, needing to complete a record chase of 376, resumed on 121-1 but were bowled out for 268, with Kagiso Rabada taking 4-103.
A collapse of 7-64 sealed victory for South Africa, despite 84 from Rory Burns and Joe Root’s 48.
The second Test of the four-match series begins on Friday in Cape Town.
It would have required a huge effort from England to secure victory on a wearing pitch but once the second new ball was taken, wickets fell quickly.
While both Root and Jos Buttler were able to bat despite being ill on Saturday, no batsman could produce an innings of substance to anchor England’s chase.
South Africa were patient throughout the morning session and pressed home their advantage after lunch to secure their first victory in five Tests.
Too little too late from England
Overnight, England spoke about taking inspiration from Headingley, where they made 362 to beat Australia in August, but this total always felt beyond their grasp.
South Africa set the tone from the start, Vernon Philander bowling four maidens to Burns, with only 10 runs scored in the first half-hour.
The frustration showed when Burns top-edged the superb Anrich Nortje’s second ball to Rabada at mid-on, while Joe Denly, after almost being caught on the hook, was trapped lbw by Dwaine Pretorius for 31.
After scoring just 50 runs in the morning session, England accelerated after lunch, with Stokes sweeping and driving left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj when he was introduced into the attack.
However, a mistake from Stokes, trying to cut a quicker delivery from Maharaj and edging it on to his stumps with only seven overs until the new ball, initiated the collapse.
Jonny Bairstow was out in the first over of the new ball, driving a wide Rabada delivery to gully, before Root, looking uncomfortable after being stuck twice on the left hand by Rabada, sent a thin edge off Nortje through to the wicketkeeper.
The final wickets fell quickly. Sam Curran nicked Rabada behind, Jofra Archer fended a 90mph Nortje delivery to first slip, Buttler was caught at deep mid-wicket trying to launch a second successive six off Rabada before Broad was bowled.
England showed patience and determination on the fourth day and, had they found a similar temperament in the first innings, the result may have been different.