Want-away midfielder Luka Modric was missing as Tottenham Hotspur conceded a stoppage-time goal to lose 1-0 against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday in the opening Vodacom Challenge tournament match.
A rapid counterattack stretched the English Premier League club and George Lebese steered a low shot wide of goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini as two defenders closed in at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Just one minute earlier a Tottenham side lacking injured Croat Modric came close to snatching the lead, but South Africa 2010 World Cup goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune pushed away a close-range Gareth Bale shot.
Tottenham have turned down two bids from Chelsea for Modric amid reports he has requested a transfer and their London rivals are planning a 30-million-pound offer ahead of a Far East tour.
While the Croat has refused to comment since arriving in South Africa, Tottenham officials said he was expected to recover quickly from an ankle injury and be available to play against Orlando Pirates on Tuesday.
Official man-of-the-match Khune was also at his acrobatic best midway through the second half as he sprung to his left and made a one-hand save to keep out a Peter Crouch header.
Spurs, whose manager Harry Redknapp is scheduled to arrive in South Africa on Sunday after attending to legal issues, were much improved in the second half of their first pre-season outing after Chiefs wasted several chances.
Close-season signing Lehlohonolo Majoro from Durban club AmaZulu came agonisingly close twice to putting Chiefs ahead on a mild mid-winter afternoon in the capital of the northern Limpopo province.
When Cudicini failed to hold a close-range shot on 31 minutes, Majoro dashed forward only to pull his shot wide of the far post before a near-capacity vuvuzela-blowing crowd.
Just five minutes later Majoro connected with a cross only for his near-post header to fly over.
It took sluggish, uninspired Spurs until first half stoppage time to seriously threaten Khune as an angled David Bentley free kick dipped just too late to break the deadlock.
The eight-day tournament continues on Tuesday in eastern city Nelspruit when the other South African glamour football club, Pirates, tackle the 2007 Vodacom Challenge winners.