Australian opener David Warner was in scintillating form amid a clatter of early wickets as South Africa suffered two injuries on the opening day of the second Test in Adelaide on Thursday.
Warner bounced back from a disappointing performance in the first drawn Test in Brisbane to lead Australia's fightback after the home side slumped to 55 for 3 after winning the toss.
At lunch, Warner had hit 67 runs off just 79 balls in a total of 102 for three, with skipper Michael Clarke unbeaten on 18.
South Africa's joy at their early successes was tempered by a hamstring injury that forced all-rounder Jacques Kallis from the field after he had taken 2-19.
Star paceman Vernon Philander was withdrawn from the team with a back problem before the start of play, making way for Rory Kleinveldt.
Australia's openers negotiated the first nine overs but Kallis, who came on to replace Dale Steyn, struck with his third delivery, dismissing Ed Cowan, caught and bowled for 10.
Rob Quiney, who kept his place when Shane Watson failed to recover from a calf injury, went for an eight-ball duck.
Morne Morkel enticed him to edge to Graeme Smith low down at first slip, leaving the Australians at 44-2 and Ricky Ponting's woes continued when he was bowled third ball for just four, playing inside Kallis.
The former Test skipper was out for a five-ball duck in Brisbane for his third duck in four Test innings against the Proteas and it was little better in Adelaide for Ponting, who stumbled and lost his footing.
Ponting's failure came despite a prolific record at the Adelaide Oval where he has accumulated 1,727 runs with six hundreds, the most runs by an individual at any Test venue in Australia.
But the Proteas faced a fresh injury setback when Kallis pulled up short while bowling the fourth delivery of his fourth over. Grimacing, he walked off for treatment for what proved to be a right hamstring problem.