Hamstrung by a lack of possession, and unable to have any impact in achieving their flow, the All Blacks were unable to find any answers in a Test which for the 53 minutes saw the breakdown become the domain of Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx.
Over the ball he was consistently the man who put the All Blacks on the back foot, and when backed with determination at the tackle by the rest of the side, there was no way through until the 76th minute.
That came when wing Caleb Clarke was able to make a break. South Africa's defensive determination was exemplified by fullback Damian Willemse who managed to pull Clarke down short of the line.
But replacement flanker Shannon Frizell was quick to the tackle and grabbed the ball to score a try at last.
As much as Marx was so dominant the All Blacks too often conceded easy ball to the home side.
Such was South Africa's defensive intensity that they quickly latched onto any sniff of a chance and the All Blacks were guilty of feeding that hunger with too many loose passes – the result of their frustrations.
Clarke and Will Jordan were largely anonymous although one dangerous break by Jordan saw his ankles clipped just as he seemed ready to get clear.
Knock-ons compounded the situation and continued a trend that saw the All Blacks the worst offenders at knock-ons in the July Tests.
Second five-eighths David Havili, replacement hooker Dane Coles each lost ball in promising situations and it was almost symbolic of the game that in the last act Frizell knocked the ball on and replacement fullback Willie le Roux was on hand to grab the ball to score a soft try.
Penalties within goal-kicking positions also added to the self-inflicted pressure they found themselves under.
Springboks first five-eighth Handré Pollard landing three penalty goals and a dropped goal to keep the margin widening as he passed 100 points against the All Blacks with his first penalty goal.
While conceding a try in the eighth minute, it wasn't a poor start to rank with those the All Blacks suffered in the second and third Tests against Ireland. Rather it was a case of being unable to prise the ball away from the Boks pack.
There were still frustrations with mistakes made in promising situations, and in the face of Springbok scrum pressure, with penalties conceded.
Under those circumstances containing them to 10 points in the first half was something of a triumph.
In the first quarter the All Blacks only had 22 per cent of possession which improved to 44 per cent by the break while South Africa enjoyed 58-42 territory advantage. However, by stringing more moves together in the second quarter the All Blacks forced the Springboks to make 55 tackles to 67.
The effort told in the last 10 minutes of the half as the big South African forwards showed the effects of the struggle. However, they worked their substitutions well to keep the pack fresh in the second half.
South Africa also had to make up for the 40-second loss of halfback Faf de Klerk, playing on his home ground. In attempting a tackle of wing Caleb Clarke his head clashed with Clarke's knee and he was stretchered from the field.
In the case of all class sides, replacement Jaden Hendrikse, in his fifth Test, proved up to the task with an impressive display.
South Africa's first try came from using their scrum to effect. Then Pollard launched a high kick outside the All Blacks 22m area, pint-sized wing Kurt-Lee Arendse contested with Jordie Barrett and the ball fell to centre Lukhanyo Am. Arendse was quickly in support and ran 22m in open space to score in the eighth minute.
Arendse marred an impressive display with seven minutes left when receiving a red card for taking Beauden Barrett out under a high ball.
Scorers: South Africa 26 (Kurt-Lee Arendse, Willie Le Roux tries; Handré Pollard 2 con, 3 pen, dropped goal) New Zealand (Shannon Frizell try; Jordie Barrett pen; Richie Mo'unga con). HT: 10-3