The tourists have included experienced middle order batsmen VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, but left out spinner Harbhajan Singh in favour of a three-pronged seam attack.
South Africa also banked on an all-seam attack of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Andre Nel.
Test specialist batsmen Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince returned to the team.
Left-arm spinner Nicky Boje was not replaced after his sudden decision on Tuesday to retire while unorthodox left-armer Paul Adams was released from the squad.
Earlier the start of the play was delayed for over one hour due to the damp patches on the pitch.
Early blows for India: Proteas pacemen delivered early blows for India by removing both the openers Sehwag (4) and Jaffer (9) cheaply to leave India reeling on 14 for 2.
Mumbai batsamn Jaffer, who was picked ahead of Gambhir for opening slot for the this game, failed once again to deliver the goods. He was undone by a peach of a delivery off Ntini which nipped back to deceive the bat only to be trapped plumb infront.
Sehwag immediately followed him to the pavilion after nicking the away going ball off Pollock for a regulation catch to the wicketkeeper
India were 19 for 2 at lunch with skipper Dravid (0) and Tendulkar (4) were at the crease trying hard to dole out the team from early crisis.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher (wk), Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn.
India: Rahul Dravid (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Dhoni (wk), Sreesanth, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan and VRV Singh.