But the match was turned on its head when Faf de Klerk orchestrated a stunning first-half comeback supported by the brilliance of Willie le Roux that enabled South Africa to take a 29-27 lead into half-time.
The 58-year-old was involved in a spat with the opposition's fans as he made his way down the tunnel after England's 42-39 defeat to the Springboks.
A scarcely-believable 24-3 lead had been amassed by the 18th minute with George Ford, acting as ringmaster as Mike Brown, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell ran in superb tries.
"I know how big a task it is, this one of playing England, and that has been the main focus".
De Klerk, electric all season for the Sharks, helped set up S'busiso Nkosi for two tries before Le Roux crashed over minutes before the break. "Maybe we got seduced by the game and that might have been the cause for some uncharacteristic and costly errors".
"It's always hard to play in these conditions".
"It certainly wasn't the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was anxious because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side", said Erasmus.
While England return to Umhlanga on the Indian Ocean to begin preparations for Saturday's second match at Free State Stadium, South Africa celebrated a landmark moment in the nation's history.
Character, tactical changes won the day for the Boks
The victory gave Siya Kolisi a nerve-jangling win in his first test as Springboks captain, and South Africa reason to be positive under new coach Rassie Erasmus following a dismal past two years under Allister Coetzee. "Kolisi will be a good captain, let's just hope he's not too good in this series".
Although Tom Curry was troubled by minor cramp and Daly suffered a dead leg, the pulsating Johannesburg opener brought no significant injury problems.
The dream debut continued when he popped up on the opposite wing after a clever run from Le Roux, creating the space for fellow debutant Aphiwe Dyantyi to send him over.
"I'm disappointed we lost but there is a lot that says the team is going in the right direction", he said. "When you get front football like he was, he's a unsafe player".
"Congratulations to South Africa for winning the game; for clawing back into the game".
Supporters leaned over the railings and verbally insulted Jones as he walked down the tunnel at the end of the first Test, Press Association Sport understands.
"South Africa have used a get out of jail card and sometimes you don't get that again", Jones said. "Especially when they win".
Later, Jones attempted to play down what had happened, by joking: "I was just asking them where I could get a good bottle of Pinotage and I'm still waiting for the answer!"
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