It could not have been any easier for South Africa. They batted once and only needed the top seven to scale 550; they bowled West Indies out twice in just over a day's worth of play - 102.5 overs - and they won with more than five sessions to spare. But Hashim Amla explained the victory in the first Test was actually much more tiring and taxing than it appeared.

"I'm really happy we've got a day and a bit to rest. We hadn't played Test cricket in five months and physically, it took it's toll on all of us," Amla said.

That much was evident when neither Amla nor AB de Villiers, who both scored centuries on the first day, attended the press conference post-play and Amla, who did the second day's duties, said he had felt "quite tired" on day one. It was even more evident on the third day, when after bowling more overs than they had on a day for the last five months, both Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander had to leave the field during the West Indies' follow-on innings. Team manager Mohammed Moosajee explained they needed ice baths and physio to assist with fatigue.

Neither of them succumbed to exhaustion and both returned ready to run through West Indies. "I don't think many people appreciate how difficult it is to be a bowler in this format," Amla said. "We saw some exceptional bowling. The field is quite heavy and the bowlers worked really hard."

Steyn described the outfield as being "like running on sea sand" and joked that the quicks "did all the cricket" on the third day because the ball was being hit to them more frequently than usual. "I was telling these guys that the slips just stood there," Steyn jested, before remembering. "Except for Alviro, he took some great catches. And you also took a good catch," he said to Amla before turning serious. "We've got some good hands and it's a big place to field. My back would be broken if I had to bend down like that all day."

Others would feel the same way if they had to bowl as much as Steyn did. After 14 overs in the first innings and five balls in the second on the third day, Steyn returned for a 7.3 over spell on the fourth morning and took six wickets. Amla looked as though he was considering giving Steyn a break and Kyle Abbott was warming up but after Steyn started making incisions, he could not be removed from the attack. "We always know Dale is good for ten overs on the trot," Amla said. "When he had four wickets, the game was in the bag and it was a no-brainer to keep him on."

Amla juggled the four-pronged pace attack well, and only used the part-timers for the first time after 58 overs in the first innings. "We picked up wickets regularly so I felt we had to go for that instead of giving the West Indies a break," Amla said. "It's never easy for the bowlers and the team but the guys ground their teeth and they got through it. Following on is never easy; it takes a big heart to do things like that. Credit to our seamers for having that big heart."

One of the biggest hearts of the match did not belong to a bowler at all, but to AB de Villiers, who took up the wicketkeeping duties after Quinton de Kock rolled his ankle on the third morning. De Villiers, who has done the job before and could end up doing it for the rest of the series now that de Kock has been ruled out, took three catches, including a one-handed stunner to his right to dismiss the opposition captain, Denesh Ramdin.

"We call him Spiderman," Amla said. "He told me there were three things that crossed his mind as the guy nicked it - not many people can have three things crossing their mind at that pace."

Steyn was the bowler on that occasion and the combination of him and de Villiers had a special significance. The pair were celebrating a decade in Test cricket, after debuting in a match which began on December 17, 2004 in Port Elizabeth. That de Villiers scored a century and Steyn claimed a six-for was what Amla called a "fitting" way to enjoy their milestone.

"It's wonderful for something like this to happen to two guys who are stalwarts of the team," Amla said. "They are exceptional team men and always taking the team to greater heights, on and off the field. I am really proud they got to experience something special on a ten year anniversary."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent