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After leading for almost the entire contest, New Zealand conceded an intercept with less than 20 seconds to play which saw Proteas goal attack Nicole Taljaard slot the equaliser from two metres out on fulltime.
It sent the International Convention Centre into ecstasy - the noise seemingly lifting the roof - with relentless dancing and singing to boot.
Dame Noeline Taurua opted for the same starting line-up as the Wales match, with Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Maia Wilson in the shooting circle, Gina Crampton, Kate Heffernan and Karin Burger in the midcourt, and Kelly Jury and Phoenix Karaka at the defensive end.
From the first whistle, the crowd imposed their presence on the game, screaming at every pass, steal and goal. The noise added an element of pressure New Zealand hadn’t dealt with before in this tournament.
Neither team shied away from the physical battle, with South African wing defence Jeante Strydom racking up six penalties in the first 15 minutes and 19 for the match.
The Proteas piled on defensive pressure, with goal shoot Wilson often forced to take passes outside the circle before they could work their way to the post.
The extra pressure saw one of the lowest scoring quarters of the tournament thus far, with New Zealand leading 11-10 after a late surge from the hosts.
The intensity of the game and the noise only increased in the second quarter, with Taurua opting to swap Jane Watson in at goal keep for Jury and Whitney Souness in at wing attack for Crampton.
The Silver Ferns managed to force an extra two general-play turnovers, winning the second stint 15-11 for a five-goal lead at halftime.
Burger shifted to goal defence and Jury into the midcourt in the third quarter, which saw the sides trade multiple turnovers seemingly every play.
The match became a cocktail of individual brilliance and basic errors.
Incredible intercepts were made in the same sequence as passes which went to the wrong player or bounced out of play.
Desperate South African defence made it difficult for Wilson or Ekenasio to get clean ball, with Tiana Metuarau stepping in at goal attack with three minutes to play in the third.
Metuarau immediately made her presence felt with a big hit on opposite Karla Pretorious, who was sent crashing to the floor.
Wilson slotted an outrageous goal from the top of the perimeter to salvage a 13-12 third quarter defeat for New Zealand - their first quarter loss of the World Cup.
Burger nabbed three intercepts - finishing with five for the match - and was a big reason the Ferns maintained a four-goal lead heading into the final 15 minutes.
The back-and-forth run of turnovers continued despite some stellar work from Burger and Watson.
South Africa began to take control of the fixture, twisting the knife with precision on attack as they looked to close the margin.
The crowd noise turned somewhat maniacal in the fourth quarter as the Proteas made the difference two goals with two minutes to play.
The gap closed to one goal with one centre pass remaining, and all the Ferns had to do was hold possession.
That pressure saw New Zealand crack - they conceded the intercept in the dying seconds, and Taljaard made no mistake at the other end.
South Africa crushed the Ferns in the fourth quarter, winning 14-10.
The Silver Ferns play Jamaica from 9pm tonight.
Full time: Silver Ferns 48, South Africa 48
First quarter: Silver Ferns 11, South Africa 10
Second quarter: Silver Ferns 15, South Africa 11
Third quarter: Silver Ferns 12, South Africa 13
Fourth quarter: Silver Ferns 10, South Africa 14