England were humbled, unable to breach South Africa's outstanding defence or to contain the Springbok pack, and it was difficult to escape the view that England's best had been left with their semifinal win over New Zealand.
Mapimpi received the ball with room to move on the left. He kicked ahead where centre Lukhanyo Am regathered the ball and then passed out to Mapimpo for a clear run at the line.
Then eight minutes later, it was right wing Cheslin Kolbe, who was provided the ball after a turnover when replacement centre Henry Slade dropped the ball and he beat England captain Owen Farrell with aplomb to run in a superb try.
South Africa joined New Zealand as the only teams to have won the Webb Ellis Trophy three times, and it ensured the southern hemisphere sides continued to dominate the tournament.
It was also the first time a side won the tournament having lost a game in pool play. New Zealand, who finished third, beat South Africa 23-13 in their opening game of the tournament.
South Africa completed a remarkable journey back from the depths of a 57-0 defeat by the All Blacks in Albany in 2017.
South Africa had hammered England's pack, winning several penalties, and with chances coming first five-eighths Handre Pollard dominated by landing six penalty goals. Dynamic England loose forwards Tom Curry and Sam Underhill and lock Maro Itoje were well contained and unable to wield the influence they did against the All Blacks.
Both teams showed the effects of a long campaign with frequent injury stoppages, the worst of which saw England prop Kyle Sinckler knocked out two minutes into the game when suffering a blow when hitting teammate and lock Maro Itoje. Then South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi suffered a head blow and was forced from the field. Springbok lock Lood de Jager left in the 21st minute with a bad shoulder injury.
But the Springbok scrum still had the wood on England who were unable to establish anything like a consistent base to work off with frequent penalties conceded.
England, in spite of 56 percent possession and 56 percent territory were unable to dominate. The one chance when able to build sustained pressure did result in a penalty goal after the Springboks had been superb in denying England through their the power of their defence.
England first five-eighths George Ford was unable to dictate terms and centre Manu Tuilagi was well contained throughout the first half and lacked opportunities to fully test the defence.
By contrast, Pollard was more controlled and it was the Springbok outside backs who looked more dangerous, especially second five-eighths Damian de Allende and centre Lukhanyo Am who were finding more openings late in the first half. Mapimpi was deserving of the game-breaking try as he had been attentive and resourceful whenever chances came his way throughout.
Scorers: England 12 (Owen Farrell 4 pen) South Africa 32 (Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe tries; Handre Pollard 2 con, 6 pen). HT: 6-12