South Africa narrowly averted embarrassment at the World Twenty20 as they edged past Holland by six runs in a dramatic finish at Chittagong.

The Dutch, routed for a record low 39 all out against Sri Lanka on Monday, came out with a point to prove with Ahsan Malik taking five for 19 to restrict the Proteas to a below-par 145 for nine.

And their batting initially fired too, a brutal half-century from Pretoria-born opener Stephan Myburgh instrumental in taking Holland to 114 for four in the 12th over.

That left them needing only 32 from 48 balls but Imran Tahir took two wickets in an over to shift the momentum, while Dale Steyn proved predictably hard to get away.

Holland, struck perhaps by an attack of nerves, kept losing wickets to unnecessarily rash shots and lost their final wicket to Beuran Hendricks with just seven runs needed to win and eight balls remaining.

Aside from a frenetic early assault by Hashim Amla, the South Africa innings was an untidy grind.

Quinton de Kock set the tone when he fell in the first over, turning Michael Swart to square-leg for a second-ball duck.

Amla was less reticent, thrashing 22 off Swart's next visit - a six followed by three fours.

He had 43 of South Africa's 45 runs by the time he was second man out, feathering Malik to Wesley Barresi.

Francois du Plessis kept the run-rate ticking over quickly with three fours and a six in a 14-ball 24, but immediately after clearing the ropes he chipped Tom Cooper down deep midwicket's throat.

At the halfway point, South Africa were 92 for three, but the last 10 overs belonged to Holland.

In that period South Africa managed a paltry two boundaries and scored only 53 runs for the loss of six wickets.

Key duo AB de Villiers and JP Duminy contributed 21 and 12 respectively, departing before finding any real touch.

Instead it fell to Malik to take control and he obliged by scalping Albie Morkel, Steyn and Hendricks before completing his five-for by bowling David Miller.

Myburgh, recalling the record-breaking chase against Ireland that booked Holland's place in the Super 10s, was in superb form as he struck eight fours and two sixes on his way to 51 in 28 balls.

His was the only significant total on the Dutch card, but with such a small target it needed just one of Wesley Barresi, Peter Borren and Cooper to kick on and take their side over the line.

South Africa, meanwhile, relied overtly on Tahir and Steyn, who took four for 21 and two for 19 between them.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe, though, was treated with utmost disdain as he leaked 46 off his four overs.