Morne Steyn kicked world champions South Africa to their first win of 2011 as they overcame a second-string New Zealand side 18-5 in Port Elizabeth.
The fly-half landed five penalties and a drop-goal as valiant defence kept the All Blacks at bay after the interval.
Jimmy Cowan almost added to Richard Kahui's try for New Zealand but his score was ruled out for a forward pass.
Despite the loss New Zealand face a Tri-Nations title decider against Australia on 27 August.
The contest had been rendered little more than a dead rubber by a run of three successive defeats that have left Wales' World Cup opponents the Springboks marooned at the bottom of the competitions standings.
With the World Cup only three weeks away, New Zealand coach Graham Henry took the opportunity to rest big names such as Daniel Carter and captain Richie McCaw.
Initially 12 changes to their starting line-up seemed unlikely to derail the All Blacks from an eighth successive win as they were only deprived of a try inside the first minute by a superb tackle from Bryan Habana on Cowan.
A Jaque Fourie intercept then salvaged another dangerous situation for the under-pressure Springboks before Steyn slotted his first penalty with eight minutes gone.
The visitors continued to enjoy a greater share of territory and possession, but struggled to convert their superiority into points.
Steyn had added another three penalties and a finely-struck drop-goal before Kahui finally made an impression on the scoreboard five minutes before the break.
The 26-year-old dotted down for his sixth Test try after slick handling and an inside break, but Colin Slade failed to convert.
New Zealand appeared to have closed to within five points when Cowan crossed seven minutes into the second half.
But the television match official correctly noted that the scoring pass from Israel Dagg was forward and Steyn's fifth penalty was the only score of the second half.
South Africa: Patrick Lambie; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow; Victor Matfield (capt), Bakkies Botha; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp. Replacements used: John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard. Replacement not used: Butch James
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear; Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan; Liam Messam, Adam Thomson, Jerome Kaino; Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock; John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (capt), Tony Woodcock. Replacements used: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Jarrad Hoeata, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu. Replacement not used: Cory Jane
Referee: George Clancy (IRL)