The difference between the teams in depth and particularly in attitude is such that the West Indies are in danger of falling victim of the clean sweep that was their speciality at the height of their powers in the Eighties under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, now their bemused manager.
The South African coach, Bob Woolmer, said the West Indies had "suffered the backlash" from their 2-1 series loss in England last summer. "I believe we played well enough to have won there but we learned a lesson and have come back much stronger," he added.
The captain, Hansie Cronje, praised his team as "a tremendous outfit", said there would be "no compromises" over the remaining Tests.
West Indian woes were compounded by the sombre sight of their oldest and most faithful campaigner, Courtney Walsh, taken to the dressing-room on a stretcher, writhing in pain. He tore his right hamstring muscle in an outfield chase as South Africa comfortably gathered the 146 runs they needed for the solitary loss of the opener Herschelle Gibbs, whose left- handed partner, Gary Kirsten, drove the winning boundary through extra cover to be unbeaten on 71.
The injury is likely to put the 36-year-old Walsh out of the fourth Test, starting in Cape Town on Saturday. If so, he will be sorely missed by a team desperately in need of inspiration.
There is also doubt about Curtly Ambrose, who failed to take a wicket in the match and who has been carrying a dodgy knee for some time.
Ahead by an insignificant 132 with only Ambrose and Walsh as remaining company for the dogged new wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, the West Indies could not even find inspiration from England's fightback in Melbourne, the progress of which was greeted with delighted cheers from a crowd of just over 9,000.
Ambrose heaved a catch to deep mid-on off his fifth ball, providing Shaun Pollock with his fifth wicket of the innings, and Walsh missed one from Donald that would have tested the best No 3 - far less the worst No 11 - in Test cricket.
The West Indies, mainly through Ambrose and Walsh, have retrieved such hopeless situations in the past but the fight has gone out of this team.
Their plight was typified in the over before lunch when Gibbs' top-edged stroke off leg-spinner Rawl Lewis lobbed gently towards midwicket where Jacobs, one of their few successes so far, ran from behind the stumps and dropped his first catch of the series.
Fourth day, South Africa won toss
WEST INDIES - First Innings 198 (B C Lara 51; J H Kallis 3-18, W J Cronje 3-19).
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 312 (J N Rhodes 87; F A Rose 7-84).
WEST INDIES - Second Innings
(Overnight: 246 for 8)
R Jacobs not out 15
C E L Ambrose c Cronje b Pollock 5
C A Walsh b Donald 3
Extras (lb12, w2, nb9) 23
Total (all out) 259
Fall (cont): 9-252.
Bowling: Donald 20.2-4-62-3, Pollock 27-6-83-5 (9nb); Terbrugge 13-4- 28-1; Kallis 10-1-31-1; Symcox 12-3-43-0 (2w).
SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings
G Kirsten not out 71
H H Gibbs lbw b Hooper 49
J H Kallis not out 23
Extras (lb-1 nb-3) 4
Total (for 1) 147
Did not bat: DJ Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, P L Symcox, A A Donald, D J Terbrugge.
Bowling: Rose 9-0-31-0; Ambrose 4-0-16-0 (3nb); Walsh 4-1-6-0; Hooper 19-4-50-1; Lewis 12.4-0-43-0.
Man of the match: J N Rhodes.
Umpires: D L Orchard and R B Tiffin (Zim).