Adele Niemand (l) competes for the ball with Pamela Cookey
England’s 12-match winning run in 2013 came to a juddering halt as they were beaten 39-37 in the final of the Tri-Nations netball tournament in Port Elizabeth.
England had already beaten the Proteas earlier in the tournament and crushed Trinidad and Tobago 56-24 on Thursday to secure their place in the final.
But they fell away badly in the second half after leading 19-18 at half-time and going four goals ahead midway through the third quarter.
Roared on by a passionate home crowd, South Africa gradually took control of the game as England’s composure deserted them, with the hosts levelling at 29-29 with 1min 41 of the third quarter left.
They edged ahead and won a scrappy final quarter 8-7 to beat England for the first time in a decade.
England skipper Pamela Cookey told Sky Sports: “We are hugely disappointed, we can’t expect to win if we make those basic errors we made tonight. It keeps us real, back to the drawing board and we know we have to up it.
“South Africa, whenever we play against them it is always a tough battle. The crowd here were awesome, really behind South Africa, but we needed to stay in our bubble and do the basics otherwise, as today, we will be punished for it.”
But Cookey insisted there were positives for England to take from the series as they build towards next summer’s Commonwealth Games.
She added: “”We have taken a lot from this tournament. We have had a lot of people take court so we are working different combinations. We just need to go back home, re-address what we do and step out again for our series in January.”