Pretoria – Australia were 83 for three at lunch on the first day of the first Test at SuperSport Park, in Centurion, on Wednesday.
South Africa earlier won the toss and chose to bowl first against Australia.
The hosts have not beaten Australia in South Africa since readmission.
South Africa also have not lost a Test series in the last five years.
The Test marked the first time the Proteas would be without the services of the allrounder Jacques Kallis, who recently retired from Test cricket.
Faf du Plessis comes in at number four, the spot previously held by Kallis, while Ryan McLaren had been included in the side, playing in only his second Test after his debut match against England in 2010.
The hosts also picked Robin Peterson as their spin option.
Australia handed a Test debut to Alex Doolan who has a first-class batting average of 37.92 including six tons and 18
The visitors would be without the experienced Shane Watson, as he picked up a calf injury in the days leading up to the first Test.
Shaun Marsh replaced Watson batting at number four for the visitors.
South Africa team: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
Australia team: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan, Shaun Marsh, Michael Clarke (captain), Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon. – Sapa, Reuters