South Africa captain Temba Bavuma won the toss and chose to bat first at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein at the start of a three-match series that the teams will finally get to play after it was postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Archer last played international cricket in March 2021 and last appeared in an ODI in September 2020.
He was out with elbow and back injuries but has been playing in the South African domestic Twenty20 league to prove his fitness for the ODI series.
Batsman Harry Brook will make his ODI debut for England.
South Africa recalled seam bowler Sisanda Magala for his first ODI in a year.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (captain), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Sisanda Magala, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi
England: Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Ben Duckett, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler (captain), Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone.