The White Ferns have joined the Black Caps in being unable to defend a sizeable total at Eden Park, being hunted down by South Africa in their opening ODI today.

Playing in their first match since March, the White Ferns made a solid 259-9 batting first at Eden Park Outer Oval, only for South Africa to never look troubled in their chase, easing to victory with seven wickets and nine balls to spare.

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The result wasn't a complete surprise – South Africa are ranked fifth in the world in one-day cricket to New Zealand's fourth – but the White Ferns would have backed themselves to defend 260 after strong knocks from Suzie Bates (53 from 75 balls) and Katie Perkins (a career-best 78 from 83 balls).

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However, the hosts simply never got a foothold, with South African openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt comfortably accumulating against the White Ferns bowlers.

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The pair added 163 for the opening wicket, before Lee had a rush of blood on 99, holing out to mid-off from a full toss from Hayley Jensen. She departed with the equation still being somewhat tricky for the South Africans, still needing over five runs an over, and some reasonably restrictive bowling from Kiwi spinners Amelia Kerr (10-0-45-0) and Leigh Kasperek (9-0-41-0) increased the pressure to the point where the visitors needed 38 from 36 balls.

However, they still had wickets in hand, and despite the departure of captain Dane van Niekerk in the 47th over, Wolvaardt was still anchoring the innings.

The 20-year-old, remarkably playing in her 48th ODI, showed the benefits of that experience, timing her innings excellently, and ending unbeaten on 91 as South Africa took the early advantage in the series.

The two teams meet again at the same venue on Monday.