The Barbarians turned on the style to expose a new-look South Africa side's defensive frailties in a thriller at Wembley, but Rohan Janse van Rensburg's late debut try salvaged a 31-31 draw for the Springboks.
Critics rounded on the Springboks after they ended a miserable Rugby Championship campaign with a 57-15 drubbing against New Zealand in Durban last month and a much-changed team fought back from 31-19 down to avoid defeat a week before the first-choice side take on England at Twickenham.
Allister Coetzee named six uncapped players in his starting line-up, with another three among the replacements, and Janse van Rensburg levelled four minutes from time to add to scores from fellow newcomers Roelof Smit, Sergeal Petersen and Francois Venter.
Pieter-Steph du Toit also went over in the first half for the Springboks, but they were fragile in defence and the rampant Baa-Baas took advantage with a magnificent display of flowing rugby.
South Africa were beaten by the Baa-Baas six years ago and looked set to suffer to same fate as the invitational side served up a treat for a big crowd, running in five tries – including magnificent team moves and brilliant individual scores.
Melani Nanai scored an early opener and captain Andy Ellis ran from deep in his own half to put the Barbarians back in front with a superb touchdown after some slick handling on the right.
The outstanding Taqele Naiyaravoro rounded off another scintillating passage of play right on the stroke of half-time to put the Baa-Baas 17-12 in front after flanker Smit had dotted down, but Petersen responded with a fine solo effort early in the second half.
South Africa continued to look vulnerable in defence and Luke Morahan crossed after another wonderful move before adding another – both converted by Richie Mo'unga – but Venter gave South Africa hope and Janse van Rensburg finished in the corner to level late on.
Captain Pat Lambie was unable to add the extras to claim what would have been an undeserved victory and the Springbooks came under pressure right at the end, but escaped with a draw from a breathless encounter.