The Proteas went down by 14 runs in their opening ODI against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday, going down 1-0 in the three-match series.
Batting first, Sri Lanka carded 300/9 before the Proteas fell 14 runs short.
Despite the result, there were still positives to take for the South Africans, but there were also some glaring concerns.
Here, we look back at five talking points to emerge from the contest.
Would things have been different if skipper Temba Bavuma wasn’t forced off the field with injury? It’s impossible to know, but the Proteas were well set in their chase at 155/1 when Bavuma retired hurt and went for scans.
The skipper and Aiden Markram (96 off 90) had but on a superb stand of 106 for the second wicket, rotating the strike and showing a fine mix of intelligence and aggression in their approach to the Sri Lankan spinners.
Bavuma has since been ruled out for the entire series.
The talent has never been in question, but Markram has underdelivered in his ODI career up until now. This, comfortably, was his highest score in the format and he fell just four runs short of a maiden century.
Perhaps most encouraging was Markram’s effectiveness against spin bowling – an area where he has struggled so far in his career.
Now with 32 ODIs to his name, Markram needs to step up and start delivering on the hype that has always accompanied him.
Markram also chipped in with a very handy 1/33 (6) with the ball, offering skipper Bavuma an all-important sixth bowling option.
Fast bowling problems
Two of the Proteas’ strongest weapons with the ball are Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, but both speedsters struggled to make any impact on Thursday.
Sharing the new ball, the pair was costly and their combined figures were 2/135 (19) – Rabada was 2/66 (9) and Nortje 0/69 (10).
The conditions in Sri Lanka are obviously spin-friendly, but the Proteas will still expect more from their quicks.
To make matters worse, Andile Phehlukwayo also struggled and was very expensive with figures of 0/37 (5).
Maharaj making a play
Spinner Keshav Maharaj was the pick of the South African bowlers, taking 2/30 (10) in a fine exhibition of spinning.
Considered a Test match specialist for most of his career, the 31-year-old has now quietly gone about amassing 12 ODI caps too.
Maharaj’s control is his biggest weapon, while his variations in pace and flight make him difficult to get away.
Tabraiz Shamsi is still the first-choice spinner in white ball cricket, but more often than not South Africa will be looking to play more than one.
The T20 World Cup later this year will be held in the UAE, and Maharaj is making a play.
It was not enough to get his team over the line, but Rassie van der Dussen’s 59 (59) was another reminder of his importance to the Proteas.
This was the 10th time in his 21 ODI innings that Van der Dussen had carded a half-century – there is also one ton in there – and he averages 73.42 in the format.
On Thursday, Van der Dussen went past 1 000 runs in ODI cricket and was the third quickest to do so in the history of the game.
Only Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman (18 knocks; feat achieved in 2018) and compatriot Imam-ul-Haq (19; registered a year later) have been faster on that basis.