Australia wing Drew Mitchell scored two tries as the Barbarians beat South Africa 26-20 at Twickenham on Saturday to end a disappointing year for the world champions.
Peter de Villiers' men were outplayed and out-run by the Barbarian entertainers who thrilled the crowd with four tries in all, the other two coming from Australia full-back James O'Connor and South Africa-born Italy international Quintin Geldenhuys.
Odwa Ndunganem, Bakkies Botha and Bandise Maku scored tries for the Springboks, who won just once in this year's Tri-Nations and saw their hopes of a 'grand slam' ended by a shock loss to Scotland at Murrayfield last month.
"The Barbarians side was full of world stars mainly from Australia and New Zealand. There's no disgrace in losing to a team of that quality at the end of a long, hard season," said the under-pressure de Villiers.
"The boys gave it everything and we were strong at the finish so I am not too unhappy. We now need a long break. The guys have been through a lot this year and are naturally pretty tired."
South Africa captain Juan Smith insisted: "It was tough out there. But we have no complaints. We wanted to finish with a win but we just fell short."
The Barbarians were coached by Nick Mallett, the former South Africa turned Italy boss, who was delighted by the outcome.
"This is the kind of performance the Barbarians are about - plenty of skill, flair, effort and tries.
"South Africa had a young team out there but they were still strong and looked a quality side. It's testament to the strength in depth they have in South African rugby."
Barbarians captain Matt Giteau, the out-of-favour Australia back, added: "You don't have much time to prepare with the Barbarians but we enjoyed it."
South Africa made twelve changes to the team which beat England 21-11 at Twickenham a week earlier, with captain Smith, veteran lock Botha and Lwazi Mvovo the only survivors.
In the traditional spirit of these occasions, the Baa Baas turned down an early straightforward penalty opportunity and opted for a scrum.
Their five minutes of constant pressure, and refusal to accept any potential three-point gifts from the referee, paid off when Mitchell finally broke through the green wall to score the first try.
The Boks showed no such desire to reject penalty chances when their rivals were penalised 30 yards out but directly in line with the posts, with 20-year-old fly-half Elton Jantjies calmly kicking his side's first points.
The Baa Baas were made up of six Australians, six New Zealanders, and one each from South Africa, Wales and Italy. So there was plenty of edge in the contest, especially from the Antipodeans.
And it was one of the Wallabies who dived across the Bok line for the second try of the game 17 minutes into the first half.
The ball was moved swiftly across the line to the left with New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu's flighted pass finding O'Connor, who went over unchallenged before converting his own effort.
Two Australia internationals then combined when Adam Ashley-Cooper set up Mitchell for his second try with O'Connor adding the conversion.
South Africa responded after the break with wing Ndungane intercepting Nonu's pass to run half the length of the field for a converted try.
The appearance of Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira helped the Boks push their forward rivals back a few yards in a real show of scrummaging power.
But the Baa Baas struck back with a move down the left which ended with replacement Geldenhuys barging his way over in the corner with O'Connor converting for a 26-10 lead.
Experienced second rower Botha then crashed his way over, and Maku did likewise in the dying seconds but it was all too little too late for the Springboks as they suffered their fourth defeat in seven matches against the Barbarians dating back to 1952.