A late Jonny May try was not enough to prevent England losing 42-39 to South Africa in the first Test in Johannesburg.
But South Africa hit back with tries for Faf de Klerk, S’busiso Nkosi (2) and Willie le Roux to lead 29-27 at half-time.
Aphiwe Dyantyi added a fifth for the Springboks and two penalties for Handre Pollard in a personal haul of 17 points saw the hosts home, despite tries for Maro Itoje and Tigers winger May.
The second Test is in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Tigers-bound David Denton was named man of the match as Scotland beat Canada 48-10 in Edmonton.
Hooker George Turner scored a hat-trick and there were also tries for Byron McGuigan, Ruaridh Jackson, Magnus Bradbury and Lewis Carmichael.
Denton, who moves to Welford Road this summer, played for 69 minutes at No8 before being replaced for the closing stages by Tigers back-rower Luke Hamilton.
"It was a real tough Test match," Denton told BBC online. "Early on, we had quite a few boys go off the pitch. It just shows how physical the game was.
"Credit to the Canadian guys. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy Test, but we came out here and played good rugby, so we are pretty happy."
Valentino Mapapalangi and Logovi’i Mulipola made a losing start to the Pacific Nations Cup as Tonga were edged out by Georgia and Samoa lost to hosts Fiji in their opening games.
Mapapalangi came on in the 56th minute, shortly before Soso Matiashvili kicked a third penalty to add to his own converted try to move Georgia 16-3 ahead.
But Tonga threatened a comeback in the final quarter as Viliami Lolohea and David Halaifonua went over but Georgia held on to win by a point.
Mulipola played the first 40 minutes for Samoa in their 24-22 defeat to Fiji. The hosts led 24-3 early in the second half, with former Tigers winger Vereniki Goneva among the try-scorers.
But Fiji had to withstand a fightback, with Samoa scoring three tries in the final quarter, to maintain their bid for a fourth successive title. Tonga and Samoa meet on Saturday.
Chris Baumann was a second-half replacement for USA in their 62-13 victory over Russia in Denver.
Baumann came on in the 63rd minute with the Eagles leading 41-13. USA scored nine tries in all, including one for their captain Blaine Scully, the former Tigers winger.