Australia's late call-up Shaun Marsh provided stout resistance as they reached 176 for four at tea on the first day of the first test against South Africa at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.
Marsh, who only arrived on Sunday as a replacement for the injured Shane Watson, was unbeaten on 67, reaching his 50 off 101 balls, as he and Steven Smith put on a 78-run unbeaten stand for the fifth wicket.
Only captain Michael Clarke was dismissed in the second session after South Africa's fast bowlers had taken the top three before lunch, vindicating Graeme Smith's decision to put the tourists in to bat on a quick wicket on steamy, hot day.
Clarke was caught at deep fine leg off a short delivery from Dale Steyn for 23 as the much-anticipated clash between the highly-rated batsman and bowler went Steyn's way.
Smith said after the winning the toss that he was not sure whether sending the opposition in to bat was the best option, but he was backed up by his fast bowlers and fielders as they took the first three Australian wickets relatively cheaply.
However, the visitors proved resilient after lunch and then picked up the run rate.
After a fast start from Australia on the opening morning of the three-test series, South Africa removed both openers quickly to leave the tourists teetering on 24-2.
First David Warner (12) chopped a Steyn delivery on to his stumps before Chris Rogers (four) was brilliantly caught by a diving JP Duminy at short leg off a rising Morne Morkel ball that rapped him on the gloves.
Marsh and debutant Alex Doolan (27) set about building a partnership before the latter was out 15 minutes before lunch, caught at mid-wicket by Robin Peterson as he tried to pull Ryan McLaren to the on-side.
After weeks of speculation, South Africa showed their hand in how they will replace retired all-rounder Jacques Kallis by giving McLaren his second cap, four years after his first against England in Jan. 2010.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)