Occasionally he fiddled with his tie or pressed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
The case has been adjourned until June 8.
That's because Zuma's strategy to thwart the case against him rests on at least three court bids to permanently stop it from going ahead. That application - should it fail - is likely to be followed by an application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Zuma sat in the dock alongside Christine Guerrier, who will represent Thales for the duration of the trial.
Speaking in isiZulu to a large crowd gathered outside the court, Zuma defended his name and said it had been dragged through the mud. ANC members were allowed to show support in their personal capacity, but not when wearing ANC regalia.
His lawyers confirmed to the court on Friday that he would appeal against the decision to prosecute him.
Advocate Anton Katz, acting for Thales, had nothing to add.
For two years, Zuma fought the order to repay part of the money. They were dropped in 2009, but the Democratic Alliance party convinced the court to reinstate them, leading to Friday's appearance. He gave a thumbs-up to media; there was a special wave for BLF.
"I am innocent until proven guilty, but there are people who want to treat me like I am guilty", Zuma told the crowd from a concert-style stage to wild cheers.
The Australia tour of South Africa
"It's been a really challenging week but you can't doubt the effort", Paine said in the post-match ceremony. That hasn't happened in a four-Test series since Bill Lawry's team lost 4-0 in 1970 in South Africa.
Zuma was found by the country's graft watchdog in 2014 to have "benefited unduly" from so-called security upgrades to his rural Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province.
The government said the fact that he was attending the summit as a head of state meant he had immunity, but the court disagreed.
Mr Zuma's remaining supporters argue that he is being targeted for backing a radical economic reform agenda.
In a meeting of the wounded, Zuma's political allies from various ANC structures packed the small venue.
Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama said: "The processes to support Zuma [will] be peaceful".
It was a blisteringly hot Durban morning.
When Zuma took the microphone to speak, he did so at length to a hushed and attentive audience.
During the 15-minute hearing, prosecutors said the 75-year-old Zuma faces 16 charges including fraud, racketeering and money laundering that relate to 783 instances of alleged wrongdoing in the 2 and a half billion dollar arms deal arranged when he was deputy president.
A spokesman for the former French president was not available to comment.