Brendon McCullum could have hardly imagined a worse start to his stint as captain of New Zealand on the back of taking over from Ross Taylor with the Black Caps all but out of the game on the first morning after he won the toss and chose to bat.
New Zealand was bowled out for 45, their third lowest and 12th lowest in Test cricket history, with Vernon Philander ripping through their batting line-up claiming 5-7.
Morne Morkel also had 3-14 and Dale Steyn 2-18 as New Zealand capitulated in embarrassing fashion at Newlands. Only Kane Williamson reached double-figures, top-scoring with 13.
New Zealand's bowlers made their batting performance look even worse for the majority of the opening day on Wednesday as well bowling too short to take advantage of the movement and bounce out of the wicket that Philander, Morkel and Steyn found so effectively.
Despite losing captain Graeme Smith early for one, South Africa cruised for much of its innings finishing the opening day at 3-252, already with a lead of 207, and with Alviro Petersen reaching a century, and Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers half-centuries.
Peterson fell for 106 early on the second day and then after de Villiers was out for 67, South Africa had little left to accomplish and Smith decided to declare at 8-347 with a lead of 302.
The Black Caps fought hard for the rest of the second day despite losing Martin Guptill in the first over for a duck, caught by Amla off Steyn.
Williamson gave some solid support to captain McCullum, but the 22-year-old was out for 15 when caught by Robin Peterson off all-rounder Kallis.
New Zealand's most meaningful and assured partnership of the match then eventuated with McCullum putting on 89 with Dean Brownlie, but McCullum fell to a good ball from Peterson to be trapped in front for 51 from 103 balls.
Brownlie, a West Australian local, was stuck in for the long haul, though, and was looking to be New Zealand's lone batsman willing to take up the fight to South Africa's much vaunted bowling attack.
Daniel Flynn gave solid support before being caught behind for 14 off Kallis, but then BJ Watling and Brownlie safely saw New Zealand to stumps on the second day at 4-169.
The tourists were still 133 behind, though, with a big job ahead of them even to make the Proteas bat again.
Brownlie did well to notch his maiden Test century, but when he fell for 109 at the hands of Morkel, New Zealand's fight was all but over.
Watling was out for 42 shortly after and after that Philander and Steyn ripped through the rest of New Zealand's batting order, bowling them out for 275.
Steyn finished with 3-67, Philander 2-76, Kallis 2-31, Morkel 1-50 and Peterson 1-42.
Smith couldn’t fault the performance of his team for all three days and hopes it continues in the Second Test.
"It's about winning. It's what you are defined on in modern sport. If you play games like this and you are dominant, and can take the game forward it's very nice," Smith said.
"We bowled superbly with the new ball in both innings. I thought we were excellent with the areas we hit and the intensity with which we started.
"They've got good players. They are obviously struggling now to find who fits where and who can slot in to certain roles. They are a growing team, but it's our job to keep them under pressure."
McCullum tried to find some positives out of the loss inside three days.
"It is disappointing to lose a Test match in three days, but we showed some resilience at times and managed to absorb some of the pressure that South Africa applied," McCullum said.
"To come out against the No. 1 team in the world in the situation we were in and play a reasonably counter-attacking innings in trying circumstances was a fabulous effort from Dean. His innings was the big positive to take from the Test."
The Second Test begins in Port Elizabeth next Friday before a three-match one-day series.