World Champions South Africa suffered a major fright before clinging onto a 26-21 victory against the British and Irish Lions to claim first blood in the opening Test at Kings Park in Durban.
The tourists looked down and out at halftime with the home side leading 19-7 but the Lions fought back bravely in the second spell and just fell agonisingly short of pulling off one of the great comebacks of all time.
The Springboks showed no signs of ring rustiness and tore into the Lions from the outset. Captain John Smit barged his way over in the fourth minute for the first try of the match and with Ruan Pienaar banging over three penalties and full back Frans Steyn adding another, the Boks were firmly in control at the break.
Leicester flanker Tom Croft gave the Lions some hope when he was on the shoulder of Brian O'Driscoll to collect the Irish centre's pass to dive over in Steyn's tackler but other than that, the tourists struggled to get in to the game as their scrum and lineout failed to function.
When flanker Heinrich Brussow powered over early on in the scone half it looked like it was going to be one way traffic but a second try from Croft with 13 minutes remaining suddenly turned the tide.
Scrum-half Mike Phillips dived over with five minutes remaining, Stephen Jones converting both to set up a grandstand finish.
The Boks were out on their feet as the Lions ripped into them but somehow the home side kept the rampant Lions at bay.
Even in defeat, there were several positives to come out of the match for Ian McGeechan and his fellow selectors. Welsh centre Jamie Roberts was once again outstanding and his partnership with O'Driscoll has become a crucial cutting edge for the Lions.
Hooker Matthew Rees and fellow countryman Adam Jones both impressed when coming on as replacements for Lee Mears and Phil Vickery respectively. The scrum improved in the second spell so the Lions selectors have plenty to ponder before the second Test next Saturday.
South Africa (19) 26
Tries: Smit, Brussow Cons: Pienaar 2 Pens: Pienaar 3, Steyn
Lions (7) 21
Tries: Croft 2, Phillips Cons: Jones 3
South Africa: Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smith (capt) Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Deon Carstens (for Smit, 65, Smit for ), Gurthro Steenkamp (for Mtawarira, 65) , Andries Bekker (for Botha, 57), Danie Rossouw (for Brussow, 52), Ricky Januarie (for Du Preez, 68), Morne Steyn (for Pienaar, blood 65, Pienaar for Jacobs, 74), Jaque Fourie (for De Villiers, 57)
Lions: Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Matthew Rees (for Mears, 50), Adam Jones (for Vickery, 45), Donncha O'Callaghan (for Wyn Jones, 68, Martyn Williams (for Wallace, 66), Harry Ellis, Ronan O'Gara, Rob Kearney (for Byrne, 38).
As the countdown continues for RWC2015, Tournament Chief Executive Debbie Jevans visited the Millennium Stadium to discuss preparations for the eight matches and reveal the positive news that 100,000 tickets for games at the home of Welsh rugby have sold in the last seven days.
Jason Harries is targeting a first win on the World Series circuit this season with Wales. The series returns to action this weekend in Dubai where Harries is part of a team hoping to build from its efforts in round one in October.
Wales skipper Jevon Groves says his side have addressed a few points from Gold Coast and aim to 'hit the ground running' in the next two rounds of the World Series, kicking off with this weekend in Dubai before heading off to South Africa next week.
Wales Sevens manager Steff Thomas is hopeful his side can build from a quarter-final spot in the opening round of the World Series in Australia when his side take part in the forthcoming double header in Dubai and South Africa.