The hosts held a 13-6 lead at the break and built on that in the second half to confirm the victory, made easier by the error-ridden effort by the tourists who also lost to Munster a week ago.
Thomas du Toit and his men enjoyed a much better start than last week in Ireland though. They had hands on the ball early and from a good attack, the Bristol defence was trapped offside. Flyhalf Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu kicked a good penalty goal and it was 3-0 after two minutes of play.
That early go-forward was sustained and SA 'A' enjoyed most of the territory and possession, but again, the fluency lacked from the visitors and they could not convert that momentum into points. They looked in control, but small errors hampered that advantage, something was proved the theme of the tour.
Fifteen minutes in, Bristol got their first points when lock Jason Jenkins was given a yellow card after a TMO call that took at least five minutes to confirm a high tackle. Flyhalf Callum Sheedy kicked the penalty goal from straight in front to level scores.
That spurred on the South Africans and they continued pressing on attack. From such a spurt, Bristol went offside again and when pinged by referee Gianluca Gnecchi, Feinberg-Mngomezulu kicked a second penalty goal to hand the lead back to his side again.
That was short-lived however, as Bristol had another good attack and forced a penalty when Elrich Louw mistimed his turn-over effort on the ground. Sheedy made no mistake to level scores again.
Bristol took the lead - and deservingly so - with a well taken try by left wing Gabriel Ibitoye just past the half hour mark. The home side attack nicely and Ibitoye ran a very good supporting line, stepping inside an overtracking SA defensive line to score the first try of the match. Sheedy converted and the home side jumped into a seven point lead 33 minutes in.
The South Africans continued to attack well, but could not finish off. With no time left on the first half clock, the men in green and gold had another strong surge towards the Bristol line. The Bears defence twice repelled the SA drives and from a third attempt, Marco van Staden lost the ball as he charged towards the line, much to the delight of the sell-out Ashton Gate crowd.
The second half started much the same way the first half did, but this time around, there was some reward for the SA effort. A good attack, with scrumhalf Grant Williams instrumental in finding the right runners, saw prop Ntuthuko Mchunu crash over for his side’s first try. Feinberg-Mngomezulu missed the conversion, but the bogey was off the back of the South African attack.
Sheedy extended the lead to five with a penalty goal from 40 meters out after 51 minutes, and then Bristol went further ahead when prop Yann Thomas crashed over from close range after some good attacking play by his pack. Sheedy kicked the conversion to swell the lead to 12 points an hour into the game.
Sheedy had another opportunity to stretch the Bears' lead when the SA side ran obstruction during a Bristol up and under and did so with ease, kicking his fourth penalty goal of the match with 14 minutes to go.
The SA scoring opportunities still cropped up, but again the execution lacked that same intensity and the game was slowly and agonizingly slipping away from the visitors.
A number of scrum penalties against SA 'A' – who seemingly had the upper hand – further compounded the effort (or lack therof), while a string of lost lineouts also didn't help their cause at all in the second half.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe - who looked full of energy when he came off the bench in the second half - scored a late try for SA 'A', but it was too little, too late.
Bristol Bears 26 (13) - Tries: Gabriel Ibitoye, Yann Thomas. Conversions: Callum Sheedy (2). Penalty goals: Sheedy (4).
South Africa 'A' 18 (6) - Tries: Ntuthuko Mchunu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Penalty goals: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2).