Touring captain Kohli was forced off the field with injury but his absence was not felt by his team.
Dhawan and Kumar star as India thrash South Africa in opening T20
Virat Kohli limped off the field before India completed another dominant performance over South Africa in the first Twenty20 international at the Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were mainly responsible for India's 28-run win, just two days after the tourists completed a 5-1 thrashing of the hosts in a one-day international series.
India captain Kohli left the field 13 overs into South Africa's innings after suffering a left leg strain while batting.
"I tweaked my glute a little bit. Thankfully it's not my hamstring," he said. "I felt a little more stiffness so I decided to go off and not be stupid and tear a muscle."
Dhawan made 72 in an Indian total of 203-5 after they were sent in to bat.
Then opening bowler Kumar produced a masterly display as he claimed career-best figures of 5-24 as South Africa were restricted to 175-9.
Kumar took the first two wickets and put a clamp on South Africa's scoring rate with an opening spell of 2-19 in three overs, displaying superb control and changes of pace.
Then he came back to settle the contest and secure the man of the match award by taking three wickets and conceding only five runs in the 18th over.
South Africa were outplayed once again despite a fourth wicket partnership of 81 off 54 balls between Reeza Hendricks (70) and Farhaan Behardien (39) with India superior in all departments.
South African captain JP Duminy said he was "very disappointed" but backed a policy of short-pitched bowling in an attempt to take wickets when India batted.
The left-handed Dhawan hit 10 fours and two sixes in a 39-ball innings. He was lucky to escape on 10 when he flicked at a ball down the leg side from Junior Dala.
South Africa appealed half-heartedly for a catch behind and the ball was called wide. Replays showed the ball had brushed his glove.
India made a flying start, with Rohit Sharma square-cutting the first ball from Dane Paterson for six. He added a second six in an over which yielded 18 runs.
Sharma was caught behind off new cap Dala in the second over but all the Indian batsmen followed his attacking example on a ground where there had been three successful run chases of over 200 in T20 internationals.
Kohli's run of big scores ended when he was leg before wicket to left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi for 26. He had been dropped off the same bowler at long-on when he had 10.
South Africa were without star batsman AB de Villiers, who was ruled out of the series after suffering a blow to his left knee ahead of the sixth one-day international in Centurion on Friday.
India also suffered an injury blow, with left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav missing because of a thumb injury suffered in Centurion when India completed a 5-1 series win.