While the side as a whole struggled, one Protea in particular left England having done nothing for his long-term Test future.
Opener Heino Kuhn was given his shot at the start of the series, which South Africa lost 3-1, after the selectors had lost patience in Stephen Cook.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the 33-year-old, but he was finally given an opportunity to show that he belonged on the highest stage having excelled in domestic cricket for years.
The end result, though, was a nightmarish run that yielded just 113 runs from eight innings at an average of 14.12.
With the Proteas next in red ball action when they host Bangladesh for two Tests over the end of September and early October, whether or not Kuhn is given another crack remains to be seen.
Young 22-year-old Aiden Markram is next in line, but captain Faf du Plessis was giving nothing away on Thursday and he said he sympathised with Kuhn.
"Heino was obviously very unlucky to get an opportunity first up against probably the best seamers in their own conditions," Du Plessis said from Cape Town International.
"It's the most difficult place to be a top order batter and everyone struggled, not just Heino.
"It's almost like going to India for your first tour and you're batting No 5 or No 6 and you've got to front up to all the spinners there."
Du Plessis said that Markram would also have struggled if he had been given a crack in the fourth Test in Manchester, but added that the youngster was guaranteed to be given an opportunity soon.
"He will get his opportunity. He's a really good player," said Du Plessis.
"He will probably get a longer run than anyone because he's got age on his side, so when he does get that opportunity it will be a good one."