Proteas opener Dean Elgar scored a century but Australia fought back with the ball, taking six wickets in the final session on day one of the third Test at Newlands on Thursday.
The left-handed Elgar was unbeaten on 121 at stumps as the home team closed out the day on 266/8 at a sun-baked Newlands.
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and had hesitation to bat first but the hosts lost Aiden Markram (0) early when he edged Josh Hazlewood to Steve Smith at second slip in the fourth over.
Elgar and Hashim Amla then saw off the new-ball threat and took South Africa to lunch 75/1. The partnership went to 86 before Amla (31) top-edged a hook to be caught at fine-leg off Hazlewood.
AB de Villiers walked to the crease and immediately looked fluent at the crease as he and Elgar took the Proteas to the tea interval on a comfortable 185/2.
After the break Elgar went to his 11th Test century, off 178 balls, with a clip through mid-wicket off Mitchell Starc.
The 30-year-old said on Tuesday that he was frustrated with his “silly and uncharacteristic dismissals” this series and greeted his ton with a very animated celebration.
Not long after, De Villiers brought up his fifty off 80 deliveries as South Africa went on and looked in a powerful position of 220/2.
Fast bowler Pat Cummins was re-introduced back into the attack by Smitn and delivered a telling spell that changed the complexion of the day entirely.
The right-arm paceman took 4/12 in eight overs as he accounted for De Villiers (64), Du Plessis (5), Temba Bavuma (1) and Quinton de Kock (3).
Mitchell Marsh then had Vernon Philander (8) caught behind while Starc took care of Maharaj for the left-armer’s first wicket of the day.
Elgar was witnessing a catastrophe at the other end but soldiered on and remained defiant while Kagiso Rabada faced some hostile fast bowling but survived until the umpires ttok the players off the field for bad light.
Nasri Alexander at Newlands
After rotating options throughout the West Indies series, England are likely to begin the Pakistan series with some familiar questions.
The seamer joined an exclusive club of bowlers on Tuesday after taking his 500th Test wicket.
Broad pinned Kraigg Brathwaite lbw in the morning session to join a pantheon of great pace bowlers.
Broad became the seventh bowler to reach the milestone in Test cricket.
Broad is the second Englishman to reach the milestone and seventh bowler overall.
The 34-year-old has put himself alongside greats of the game by reaching 500 Test wickets.
The England seamer becomes only the seventh bowler to join the exclusive club.
The seamer joins an illustrious club to have taken 500 Test wickets.