South Africa's bowler Vernon Philander (3rd R) is embraced by teammates after making a successful appeal for an LBW decision against Australia's Shaun Marsh (C) on day two of the first Test cricket match between Australia and South Africa in Perth on November 4, 2016. /GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Australian selector Mark Waugh has asked for the top order to tighten up mentally after the batting collapse that handed South Africa a win in the opening Test.

The hosts had the Proteas right where they wanted them after day one, but the visitors somehow dug themselves out of the ground to turn the match around and romp home to a 177-run win.

"The facts are it was disappointing. I mean, we shouldn't lose from that position, really," Waugh said on Fox Sports' Inside Cricket.

"We've seen it happen probably three or four times in the last five Test matches where we've dominated day one, we've been ahead in the game and then I don't know whether it's a subconscious thing where we relax a bit.

"But South Africa played great. Full credit to them. But if our boys look at their performances, they'll know they can do a lot better than that."

South Africa completed the comeback without paceman Dale Steyn which just made the feat even more impressive, as the Proteas bowling attack stepped up greatly in his absence.

Kagiso Rabada took home Man of the Match honours, Vernon Philander put in a solid shift and JP Duminy took key wickets when he needed too.

The dismissals of David Warner and Usman Khawaja, both on 97, was a big factor in the South Africans win, although Waugh was reluctant to blame anyone for the collapse.

"It was a combination of some good bowling and some poor execution with the bat; poor decision making," he said.

"I think it's a bit of a mental thing now, possibly. We've had it happen to us probably three or four times in recent times - in Sri Lanka. We go back to England, that was a while ago.

"So it's probably both technical and mental ... so you can't do much about it. It's up to the individual.

"They've got to work on their game and how to best to adapt to the conditions. We're not probably adapting to what we're seeing in front of us with the bat.

"Maybe we're thinking about something else, but they're not concentrating on that ball and what to do if the ball's reversing or a left-arm spinner's bowling.

"You've got to have your plans in if it's that sort of bowling. At the moment it looks like we're batting and hoping a little bit."