Silver Ferns' Maria Tutaia has guided New Zealand to victory over South Africa in a tense opening round of the Netball Quad Series.
Vice-captain Tutaia stood tall as the Silver Ferns held out a plucky South Africa 63-56, notching 28 goals at 82 per cent.
A 20-12 third term by the Silver Ferns proved the difference against the world No.5 team, coached by former Australian mentor Norma Plummer.
Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby rolled the dice and injected impressive wing attack Whitney Souness and goal keeper Kelly Jury with the Proteas pressing, and it proved to be a masterstroke.
"Having Souness and Jury out there, they are two players who have been on the radar for some time," 108 Test veteran Tutaia said.
"So for them to have the courage to put them on in such a pressure match, it took some balls to put them out there."
New Zealand's Bailey Mes led the attack with 35 goals, missing just one shot.
It was still a huge effort by South Africa who were thrashed 70-39 the last time they met in February.
The Silver Ferns had won by an average of 31 goals in their past six games since 2012.
South Africa have beaten New Zealand just once in 29 previous contests when Kiwi great Irene van Dyk was representing the Proteas in 1995.
The timing of world No.2 New Zealand taking on the Proteas proved awkward for Tutaia with her fiancée Israel Folau trying to inspire the Wallabies in their Dunedin Bledisloe Cup clash at the same time.
Silver Ferns superstar Tutaia admitted the clash of matches made for an awkward pre-match phone call.
"Before the game was so funny. We both wished each other luck but I just wished him luck not his team -- go the ABs," Tutaia said.
"He's got no choice with me though. He has to go for the Silver Ferns too."
The win was an important first step toward the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for New Zealand.
After the Quad Series, the Silver Ferns tackle a three-test home series against England next month.
Then a new 12-strong squad will be named for four Constellation Cup Tests against Australia in October that will effectively be their Games team.
"It was a pass mark overall," Southby said.
"There was some great stuff in attack but defensively I think we have a lot of work to do."
The eight-day Quad Series is expected to be decided when Australia meet New Zealand in Invercargill on September 3.
Meanwhile, Australia held out England 54-50 in the opening Quad Series clash.
The series next moves to Canberra on Wednesday before concluding in New Zealand.