New Zealand captain Tom Latham hailed a "perfect performance" after his team completed a one-sided demolition of a pitiful South Africa, winning the first test by an innings and 276 runs before lunch on day three day on Saturday.

Tim Southee took five wickets as New Zealand bowled out South Africa for 111 in its second innings, a paltry total that was nonetheless than its first innings haul.

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The result ended a 16-match winless streak by the Blackcaps in tests between the two nations.

The reigning world test champion has never won a series against South Africa but will break its duck barring a major turnaround in the second test of the two-match series.

Pace bowler Matt Henry was named Player of the Match after picking up nine wickets overall, including 7-23 in the first innings at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

He also made a swashbuckling 58 not out batting at No. 11.

Latham, captain in the absence of injured Kane Williamson, acknowledged that the toss had been crucial, but heaped praise on the way his bowlers had clinically exploited the helpful conditions.

"Winning the toss was a big part of it, but from there guys put the ball in the right area," he said.

"To back up the performance with the bat on a wicket that was a little tricky, you look back and it was probably the perfect performance really.

"You look at a blueprint and putting a big first innings total on the board obviously allowed our guys to come out and we put the ball in the right area again in the second innings."

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South Africa endured a 10-day lockdown on arrival in New Zealand, but captain Dean Elgar refused to use that less-than ideal preparation as an excuse.

Not a single South Africa batter made a half century in the match, with Temba Bavuma's knock of 41 in the seconds innings the best of the bunch.

The bowlers were hit at nearly four runs an over, and the fielders dropped numerous catches, several of them regulation chances.

"(We were) pretty much outskilled in all three departments of test cricket, failed to execute the basics," said opener Elgar, who almost made a pair, scoring 1 and 0.

"Not a very good show considering what we've built up prior to coming to New Zealand. Extremely disappointing the way the last few days have gone.

"It boils down to intensity. Test cricket demands intensity. I don't think we were there the last two-and-a-half days."

The second test, also in Christchurch, starts on Friday, leaving South Africa with nearly a week to regroup from their shocking performance and somehow find a way to draw the series.