Allister Coetzee's side came to Dublin having recovered from a 57-0 thrashing to New Zealand in Albany in September by pushing the world champions to within a point a month later but it was back to the drawing board at the Aviva Stadium.
"It's a tough day, it's not what any of us wanted. We've no excuses and we're going to have to rectify this, us and the management," South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth told a news conference.
While they trailed by 14 points before Ireland pulled away with three tries in the last 10 minutes, South Africa were second best by some distance all evening and Coetzee said their scrum, breakdown work and discipline let them down.
Asked if he felt he was under pressure, Coetzee said a coach is always under pressure after a test match defeat.
"It's difficult to explain. There are no positives from our side to be honest. It's a disappointing defeat and as a group we take full responsibility for that, we've let ourselves down and our support back home," the former Stormers coach said.
"The Albany thing was tough but we came back and we've got three more games on tour so we just have to fight our way back from this one... I think our inconsistencies is something I'd like to see improve in a big way."
Coetzee, who described Ireland as the "All Blacks of Europe" ahead of the game, praised his opponents tactical performance and the clinical nature of their finishing.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was quick to dismiss the idea that his side's "incredibly satisfying" win marked the decline of South African rugby.
"I think in the changing room the players wouldn't say it (Springbok rugby) is going backwards," Schmidt said.
"I grew up watching Springbok teams be pretty dominant at their peak and I don't think this Springbok team is that far away from some of that... We would be naive to think the next time we play the Springbok that there's a 35-point margin between us because that's just not the reality."
After watching newer members of the squad such as Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway do "a fantastic job", Schmidt said he would mix the team up a little bit for next weekend's visit of Fiji.
"It augers well for us going forward but next week's score at the moment is 0-0 and it will be until we kick off," he said.
Photo: PHOTOSPORT Ireland's Bundee Aki celebrates with try scorer Rob Herring.