Wales blow glorious chance
Wales 25 South Africa 29
Teenager George North scored two tries on his Test debut, but Wales blew another golden opportunity to claim a coveted Tri Nations scalp.
The 18-year-old giant Scarlets wing, who has already been dubbed the Welsh Jonah Lomu, matched his billing with a barnstorming display.
Centre James Hook also breached South Africa's defence and outhalf Stephen Jones kicked 10 points, yet Wales unforgivably surrendered a 20-9 lead established after 47 minutes.
The Springboks, who launch their World Cup defence against Wales in New Zealand next September, fought back from the abyss through second-half tries from skipper Victor Matfield and replacement Willem Alberts.
Goalkicker Morne Steyn, scourge of the British and Irish Lions in South Africa last year, added 19 points through five penalties and two conversions and Wales were left to reflect on a 12th successive defeat against the Springboks.
It was also their 11th loss in 12 starts against Tri Nations opposition under coach Warren Gatland, and while Wales will take heart from a thrilling first-half display, they painfully came up short.
Gatland's men will wonder how they conceded 17 unanswered points during nine minutes of mayhem, and although the 20,000 fans who stayed away from the Millennium Stadium -- Wales were watched by under 55,000 for a second successive week -- missed a thriller, it was South Africa who ultimately prevailed.