The Proteas, who would retain the number one spot even if they draw the two-test series, went into the match with an unchanged XI from the side that clinched the series decider in Perth, with bowler Vernon Philander being passed fit to play.
Dean Elgar also retains his place in the team ahead of the out-of-favour Jacques Rudolph despite starting his test career with a pair.
New Zealand, languishing in eighth in the standings, will be looking to build on their series-levelling win in the second test against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November.
New Zealand are still coming to terms with Ross Taylor's sacking as captain as they begin their first test match with McCullum in charge.
The Black Caps are also without the injured duo of Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee.
Dean Brownlie is the man to take the field in place of Taylor, who skipped the tour after losing captaincy, while BJ Watling takes the gloves from South African-born wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk.
The Kiwis have also brought in all-rounder James Franklin for Todd Astle, while veteran Chris Martin is the other change from the team who won in Colombo as he came in for Southee.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum (captain), Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Daniel Flynn, BJ Watling, James Franklin, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Jeetan Patel, Chris Martin. (Reporting by Michael Todt in Cape Town, editing by Amlan Chakrborty)
- Sports & Recreation
- Vernon Philander
- Dean Elgar