The key period came just after half time when a series of errors handed control of the game to South Africa. High balls dropped, tackles missed, they all contributed.
It was a fascinating, see saw encounter with neither side having complete superiority. The England pack were dominant in scrum and maul, whereas the South African pack secured crucial turnover ball from some aggressive counter rucking.
The South African back three were always a threat and it was no surprise that several of their scores were the result of good work by this unit.
England were under the cosh from the start and it came as no surprise when Nico Scheepers burst through the England midfield to score.
But England responded in style with a fine try from Marcus Watson and Freddie Burns chipped in with an individual gem as he spotted space on the blindside and jinked his way over.
But England could never quite shake off the Baby Boks with the excellent full back Patrick Lambie at the heart of everything good and he set up his side's second try for Sibusiso Sithole.
But when Joe Marler smashed his way over just before half time for England's third try, Mapletoft's side looked well placed.
However, Tom Homer misjudged a high ball just after the restart to gift territory to South Africa and the full back then missed a key tackle as Sithole returned the favour to put Lambie in for the score.
Another error then gave South Africa the lead as Jamie Gibson burst off a scrum but was stripped of the ball and the fourth try duly followed.
A Rory Clegg penalty got England back to 24-22 with just a few minutes left but South Africa responded in kind.
England still threatened. Jonny May was a constant threat as was Christian Wade but superb counter rucking saved South Africa more than once and England's final attack ended as Marler put a foot in touch as he hauled in a loose pass when well placed in the opposition 22.