Captain Graeme Smith and coach Gary Kirsten pledged they would not take England lightly in the remaining two Tests, after South Africa swept to a comprehensive innings and 12 run victory at the Oval on Monday.
England were dismissed twice on a pitch which gave minimal help to the bowlers, while the Proteas lost only two wickets in piling up a massive 2-637 in their only innings, with man-of-the-match Hashim Amla hitting a South African record 311 not out.
It was an especially surprising margin because England were on top on the first day when they scored 3-267.
Dale Steyn was South Africa's hero on Monday, taking three wickets in 16 deliveries with the second new ball as England were bowled out for 240 on the final day. The fast bowler finished with five for 56 to justify his ranking as the world's leading Test bowler.
The win took South Africa a big step towards earning the No.1 ranking in Test cricket which they will achieve if they defeat current No.1 England in the series.
Before flying back to Cape Town to witness the birth of his first child, Smith said: "It's an extremely proud moment for all of us in our team."
But he added: "We are going to Headingley and the conditions will be very different and we understand it will be a very different Test match."
Kirsten hailed a "great performance" by his team.
"We think that we can go out and play cricket like that on a regular basis, rather than that being a one-off Test match.
"I'm not saying we'll be 650 for two again but we feel that we can put in really good performances on a daily basis."
Kirsten said, though, that the team's job was only a third complete.
"We've got a great respect for the England cricket team. We know they will try and bounce back. We're not going to take anything for granted."
England captain Andrew Strauss gave credit to South Africa.
"We were outplayed in the last four days of the game. We set the game up well on the first day. South Africa used the conditions to their advantage on day two and they never let us back into the game."
But Strauss pledged that England would bounce back.
"There are a number of areas where we are frustrated ... there are regrets but we will learn the lessons and come back strong next week."
One of Strauss' regrets was that England were unable to come out of the game with a draw. He said losing four wickets on the fourth afternoon was a disappointment.
"I suppose South Africa had a bit of a psychological advantage with us having been in the field for a period of time. We did not react well enough to that and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth."
Ian Bell led determined resistance by England on the final day, who lost only one wicket in almost three hours on Monday before Matt Prior was dismissed by leg-spinner Imran Tahir shortly before the second new ball was due.
The new ball was taken immediately after the afternoon drinks break, opening the door for Steyn's onslaught.