These two countries were handed the honour of playing in the opening match of the competition in New Zealand and France, fourth in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, started strongly and were 19-0 up inside the first quarter.
However, 11th in the world South Africa played much better in the second half and scored a good try before France got the bonus point fourth try after 67 minutes.
France got off to a flying start when they scored a try within two minutes.
It came when scrum-half Laure Sansus, named the 2022 TikTok Women's Six Nations Player of the Championship earlier this year, darted over for the try. Fly-half Caroline Drouin converted to make it 7-0.
South Africa were doing their best to get a foothold in the game, but try number two came for France in the 11th minute thanks to some lovely work by Drouin.
She set up inside-centre Gabrielle Vernier to go over for the score. The conversion was missed this time, but it was 12-0 to the French.
Try number three came for France in the 17th minute.
South Africa were trying to launch an attack from their own half of the field via scrum-half Tayla Kinsey, however her pass was pounced on by France left-wing Emilie Boulard.
She intercepted the ball and showed good pace to run in for a score which Drouin converted to make it 19-0.
In the 29th minute the South Africans were reduced to 14 players when Sizophila Solontsi, their blindside flanker, was yellow carded by referee Maggie Cogger-Orr for a high tackle on Vernier.
To their credit, South Africa managed to deal with the 10 minutes while they were a player down very well and the score at half-time was still 19-0 to France.
South Africa took confidence from their end to the first half and started the second period strongly.
After 45 minutes hooker Lindelwa Gwala was held up over the try line, but five minutes later they got themselves on the scoresheet.
They worked the ball out wide nicely and right-wing Nomawethu Mabenge was the player to score. Zenay Jordaan, who had come on at fly-half in the first half, could not convert, and it was 19-5.
On the hour mark it looked as though France might be in for their bonus point fourth try, but with the try line in sight openside flanker Marjorie Mayans knocked the ball on.
Their fourth try did come in the 67th minute when Sansus took a quick tap and dived over. Replacement Lina Queyroi converted to make it 26-5.
With nine minutes to go try number five was scored for France by Drouin with Queyroi converting for 33-5.
And with the clock in the red France’s sixth try came through right-wing Joanna Grisez, on her test debut, with Queyroi adding the extras to finish things at 40-5.
Sansus was named Mastercard Player of the Match and afterwards her fellow try scorer Vernier said: “South Africa is a physical team, but we are so happy to start of with a win and the crowd here was amazing.
“We could hear the French supporters in the crowd while the New Zealand public were cheering both sides too and we are looking forward to building from here now.”