South Africa completely dominated New Zealand in the two Test match series winning by an innings and 27 runs in Cape Town and then an innings and 193 runs at Port Elizabeth.
The Black Caps didn’t give a whimper in either Test, but are a much more confident limited overs team and that showed at Boland Park in Paarl on Saturday with New Zealand coming away with a thrilling one-wicket victory.
New Zealand did well bowling South Africa out for 208 in 46.2 overs, but the run chase was hard work until James Franklin saw the tourists home with an unbeaten 47 as the Black Caps reached 9-209 with one wicket and 26 balls in hand.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum won the toss and sent South Africa in to bat and it didn’t take long for it to look like a good decision.
Hashim Amla was the first wicket to fall with the score at 25 in the fifth over and then debutant Mitchell McClenaghan got in on the action dismissing Graeme Smith for seven and AB de Villiers for seven.
That left the Proteas at 3-37 before the lower order combined solidly with Faf du Plessis.
Du Plessis went on to make 57 with some solid support from Ryan McLaren (33), Rory Kleinveldt (26) and Quinton de Kock (18), but New Zealand's bowlers continued to bowl solidly and eventually bowled out the home side for just 208.
Debutant McClenaghan was the star with the ball for the Black Caps finishing with 4-20 from 10 overs. He received good support from Kane Williamson (4-22), Franklin (1-44) and Kyle Mills 1-55.
After the way their batting crumbled in the Test series, New Zealand's chase of 209 for victory seemed a big one still and even more so once they crumbled to 3-21 with Martin Guptill (0), Rob Nicol (4) and Williamson (5) all back in the pavilion after 7.1 overs.
However, McCullum and BJ Watling steadying things for the Kiwis combining for a 52-run stand before McCullum fell for 26, trapped LBW to Kleinveldt.
Grant Elliott then made just one before also falling to Kleinveldt, but New Zealand then somewhat steadied again before Watling fell for 45, bowled by McLaren. The score was 6-105 and then 7-105 when McLaren trapped Jimmy Neesham in front second ball.
New Zealand's chase then looked all but over at 8-140 when Nathan McCullum fell for 24, but Franklin teamed up with Mills for a match-winning partnership of 47.
Mills eventually fell for 26 when he was bowled by McLaren, but then McClenaghan faced six balls and hung around with Franklin as he guided New Zealand to victory and remained 47 not out from 61 balls with five fours.
McLaren took 4-46 for South Africa with Kleinveldt picking up 2-37 and Lonwabo Tsotsobe 2-43. Dale Steyn bowled well for 0-33 despite not taking a wicket.
New Zealand captain McCullum was certainly relieved to finally taste a victory after such a horror Test series.
"It's incredibly satisfying to come up against the No. 1 team in the world, be under pressure for the majority of the game and show the fight that we did from any number of blokes in the field and with the bat. A couple of old heads got us through in the end," McCullum said.
"This is a big result for us and our confidence. We know that we have to improve further, though, to make sure we are stronger in Kimberley in a couple of days, but we will enjoy this victory first for sure.
"We are a more confident one-day unit at this point of time and that's the life cycle of this team at the moment. We came up against an incredible South African team in the Test matches, but we know we are capable of competing with these guys in the shorter form of the game and we showed that today.
"We weren’t at our best and granted neither were South Africa, but we managed to show enough fight and character to get ourselves across the line."
South Africa's one-day captain de Villiers was disappointed in the overall performance from the Proteas.
"We definitely weren’t at our best today and that's a shame in front of the home crowd here at Paarl. Hopefully we will go out in the next ODI and play a bit better," de Villiers said.
"I thought it was a good game of cricket in the end and New Zealand rightfully came out on top and well done to them."
Game 2 of the one-day series will be played at Kimberley on Tuesday before the third and final clash at Potchefstroom on Friday.