England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat first sans the services of ace quick Jofra Archer and opener Rory Burns, both in-form players ruled out due to injury. Pope, playing in place of Jonny Bairstow, dug in when wickets tumbled at the other end and got to 56 from 132 balls, his innings laced with seven fours.
For the hosts, Anrich Nortje (2/54) impressed in only his third outing while veteran Vernon Philander (2/46), Kagiso Rabada 2/63) and Dwaine Pretorius (2/26) also took two wickets each.
Pope and star all-rounder Ben Stokes (47) shared a 58-run stand for the fifth wicket, but England's World Cup and Ashes hero threw away his wicket when he was looking good by chipping a fullish Nortje delivery to Dean Elgar at cover.
Jos Buttler's poor run of form continued as he departed for 29 as England lost the tail early before James Anderson held on with Pope.
Earlier, England lost Burns' replacement opener Zak Crawley (4) cheaply before Joe Denly (38) and Dom Sibley (34) stitched together 55 runs for the second wicket.
Joe Root (35) also got a start but Philander and Rabada kept taking regular wickets to keep the visitors them in check.
South Africa won the first Test by 107 runs and lead the four-Test series 1-0.
Brief scores: England 1st innings: 262/9 (Ollie Pope 56 not out, Ben Stokes 47; Anrich Nortje 2/54, Vernon Philander 2/46, Kagiso Rabada 2/63, Dwaine Pretorius 2/26) vs South Africa
( With inputs from IANS )