Springboks win at Murrayfield 26-20
But neither the stadium nor the hosts scare the Springboks, who kept their noses in front with turnovers to beat Scotland a sixth straight time and third straight at Murrayfield.
Both teams scored two splendid tries, and the scores were tied at 7, 17 and 20, but South Africa managed the game much better even with a man sin-binned in the second half.
At 23-20 down an hour in, Scotland had a kickable penalty — and Greig Laidlaw nailed four from four shots — but opted for an attacking lineout and lost possession. It was their last best chance for more points.
"I thought about kicking the points but the two previous mauls probably pushed us into going for the corner," Laidlaw said.
"I have always been aggressive in my thinking, I back myself and I back the team but it's disappointing. We will look at that and move on, and look to finish strongly against Argentina next week."
After blowing the test with England and beating France in injury time, South Africa was looking for more fluency in attack and found it after only six minutes with a try from ruck ball. Flyhalf Handre Pollard stepped his opposite, and scrumhalf Embrose Papier and tight forwards RG Snyman and Steven Kitshoff took the move into Scotland's 22. Off ruck ball, center Jesse Kriel crashed through.
Scotland needed Stuart Hogg to thwart Malcolm Marx in another raid, and also scored next.
Center Huw Jones, his back to a defender, released wing Sean Maitland, took the return pass, and slipped the ball backdoor for midfield partner Pete Horne to score a wonderful try.
But Murrayfield's cheers turned to silence a minute later when Jones tried to run out of his 22, was turned over by Damian de Allende and South Africa spread the ball right for Pollard to slice through.
He and Laidlaw traded penalties, and Scotland tied it at 17 when flanker Hamish Watson scored from a brilliant lineout move. Scotland split the front of the lineout and Watson darted into the gap to catch Stuart McInally's low throw and dive over.
Pollard's second penalty gave South Africa a 20-17 lead into halftime.
Fullback Willie le Roux was then harshly yellow-carded for what was called a deliberate knock-on, despite getting a hand to an attempted intercept with only grass between him and the tryline.
Laidlaw kicked the penalty to tie it at 20 but South Africa returned the pressure to have two penalty shots. Pollard made the first and hit the post with the second. Le Roux returned with South Africa still in front.
Scotland then gambled on the attacking lineout and lost, and Pollard shanked another penalty attempt. That prompted South Africa's next penalty attempt to be taken by replacement Elton Jantjies. He got it, and South Africa held out to the end.
The Springboks go to Wales next weekend, and Scotland hosts Argentina.