South Africa's Dale Steyn and Dane Piedt made history, but Zimbabwe avoided the massacre that most had anticipated as they reached lunch on 64 for two on the first day of a one-off Test.
While Steyn dismissed Vusi Sibanda early on to claim his 376th Test wicket and draw level with West Indies legend Malcolm Marshall as the game's 14th highest wicket-taker, debutant Piedt became the 19th bowler in history to strike with his first ball in Test cricket.
No 1-ranked South Africa had been expected to rifle through ninth-ranked Zimbabwe after the hosts had won the toss and elected to bat, but Hamilton Masakadza batted through the first session for his unbeaten 28 while Brendan Taylor stood firm for 19 not out.
The Zimbabweans were aided by a dry, lifeless pitch, but Steyn nevertheless required just seven deliveries to see off Sibanda, before Piedt halted a promising partnership when he entered the attack to trap Mark Vermeulen lbw for 14.
Vermeulen's remarkable return had earlier been confirmed as he made a Test comeback almost eight years after burning down Zimbabwe's cricket academy.
Zimbabwe also handed debuts to fast bowler Donald Tiripano and offspinner John Nyumbu, while Piedt's selection in place of Imran Tahir was the only change to the South African team that recently won a Test series in Sri Lanka.