They said that Pakistan would be a different beast in coloured clothing.
They also said that the Proteas had issues to iron out, and this series would be an ideal platform to do just that.
On Saturday, the tourists rubbed South African noses into the Port Elizabeth dirt, as they cantered to a five-wicket victory in the first of five one-day internationals at St George’s Park.
South Africa won the toss, and chose to bat first on a wicket that was on the slow side of life.
The Proteas made 266/2, but there was a sense that they left a good 40 runs out there. Eight wickets in hand, in a 50-over game, doesn’t win you any bonus points.
Hashim Amla, who has been in great touch in 2019, carried his bat to make his 27th ODI century, as he provided the glue to the innings.
It was a composed knock and was played in conjunction with a 93 from debutant Rassie van der Dussen.
The Lions star took his chance, displaying all the shots in the book and going through the gears as his innings progressed.
But for all their meticulous foundation work, one of them had to hit out – or get out. With hitters like David Miller still in the sheds, the Proteas needed to up the tempo.
A score of 300 would have given them security, and forced Pakistan to take a few more risks.
The brave cricket of years gone by, when they put the foot on the gas and never relented, was missing. And it cost them in the end, as Pakistan could time their chase expertly.
The key for the Pakistanis was the returning Mohammad Hafeez, who calmly navigated through the middle overs and picked apart anything loose to show the class that the visitors had so desperately missed in the Test series.
Hafeez blazed 71 not out off 63 balls, compiling the perfect finishing job – even under mounting pressure.
He was in a league of his own, uncluttered by pace or Imran Tahir spin. Class is permanent, they say.
Their openers had also laid a sufficient platform, taking the fame to the South African quick from the get-go. Imam ul-Haq stroked a classy 86 upfront, Fakhar Zaman made 25 and Babar Azam’s 49 kept things ticking along.
The start that Pakistan made would have immediately informed the Proteas that they had misread the wicket, as the ball came on to the bat in the evening.
It's all over in Port Elizabeth, Pakistan win the first Momentum ODI by 5 wickets and go 1-0 up in the 5-match series.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 19, 2019
What a match!
Hard luck to our boys, we're backing you to bounce back in Durban next Tuesday.#SAvPAK #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/vziR58g16D
Debutant Duanne Olivier travelled for 73 runs in his 10 overs, a marked contrast to his blistering Test form.
In ODI cricket, the white ball tends to fly off the willow.
The Proteas had to strike upfront, but they were blunted by a determined opening stand. Pakistan really wanted the victory, and even a late stumble was not enough to deny them.
Hafeez was there at the end, and his presence will be a thorn in the South African side for the rest of the series.
The second ODI will be played at Kingsmead on Tuesday, starting at 1pm.