South African-born Neil Wagner took three wickets for New Zealand against the country of his birth as bad light brought an early close to play on the first day of the first test at Kingsmead with South Africa 236 for eight.
Wagner, 30, who left South Africa to play provincial cricket in New Zealand a decade ago, took the wickets of JP Duminy, stand-in captain Faf du Plessis and swashbuckling Quinton de Kock to give the visitors the upper hand.
Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner grabbed two wickets each while Hashim Amla (53) and Temba Bavuma (46) top scored for South Africa.
The home side never settled at the crease after electing to bat on an unfamiliar surface which promised to be flat but ended up quickening and providing some swing in the first winter test ever played in Durban, where previous test encounters have come in the height of a sun-baking summer.
"We bowled nicely from both ends with some green on the wicket and swing at the start. But we had to be patient and not get frustrated with the ball just passing the bat. We need credit for sticking at it," Boult told reporters afterwards, predicting that the wicket would become quicker on Saturday.
Amla set off at a brisk pace in his innings before becoming bogged down and then undone by a blistering delivery from Boult.
De Kock played a cavalier knock of 33 before being caught in the deep after an injudicious slog at Santner's spin.
Bavuma was more circumspect as he edged towards 50 only to be trapped lbw attempting a sweep.
Kagiso Rabada (14 not out) and Dale Steyn (two not out) will resume on Saturday.