If the Silver Ferns lose to Jamaica tomorrow in their final group game they can still make the semi-finals but they will have to wait for final confirmation.
The Proteas will need to beat Uganda later in the day but even if they do that it will come down to goal percentage, and the Silver Ferns have the higher differential at this stage.
The Silver Ferns came into Thursday morning's match with a challenging 17 hours in front of them, with their match against the Proteas followed by quick turnaround and a game against Jamaica at 9pm (NZT).
The New Zealanders are now relying on a win against Jamaica or goal differential to keep their hopes of progressing alive.
Having kept a clean sheet through their opening four matches, the Silver Ferns faced a fired-up and desperate South Africa, who had their backs to the wall after losing to Jamaica in pool play.
The Silver Ferns held a decent lead during the final quarter but they were unable to shut the gate on the Proteas who came up with the big plays when it counted most to secure a famous draw.
Both teams went into the match without their leading shooters after Grace Nweke and Lenize Potgieter had earlier been ruled out of the tournament with knee injuries.
Maia Wilson cemented the starting spot at goal shoot for the Silver Ferns while Karin Burger, in front of her family in the country of her birth, got the nod at wing defence and the rangy Kelly Jury slotting in at goal keep.