(Reuters) - Top-ranked South Africa admitted they were outplayed by Pakistan as their unbeaten run of 15 test matches over almost two years came to an end in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

They suffered a seven-wicket defeat after tea on the fourth play of the first test after Pakistan chased down a 40-run target having dominated a ring-rusty South Africa team from the start of the match at the Sheikh Zayed stadium.

Captain Graeme Smith told reporters his side had been "stressed" despite going into the game as the world's number one-ranked team.

"Every time you come to the (Asian) sub-continent you always have a degree of stress," Smith told a news conference.

"Pakistan have played well in these conditions of late, I have to say that they have outplayed us, so it's very disappointing.

"We are hurting. The team has too much ability to make this a habit. Teams can play well, you do lose, that's natural in sport but the standards that we set for ourselves means that we should have the ability to bounce back."

South Africa's last test was in February when they wrapped up a 3-0 home series win over the Pakistanis.

"It's always difficult to replicate test matches when you haven't played one in six months," Smith said.

"We came together after the Champions League and the guys have worked extremely hard and always knew this would be a tough tour after a long layoff."

South Africa will get straight back into the nets before the second match in the two-test series begins in Dubai on Wednesday.

"The positive is that we were better with the new ball today than we were in Pakistan's first innings," Smith added after South Africa took Pakistan's first three second-innings wickets for just seven runs before the home side reached their modest target of 40.

"That is a big step in the right direction. After the strong opening partnership they had in the first innings it was nice to get things right. We need no motivation to improve," he said.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond; mark.gleeson@thomsonreuters.com +27828257807 Messaging mark.gleeson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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