South Africa broke through to the tail with two wickets in the morning session on day three, as New Zealand battled to stay in the Test via Kane Williamson's abrasive half-century. Two pieces of superb old-ball bowling removed Daniel Vettori and Kruger van Wyk, leaving Williamson with the task of constructing a competitive target alongside the bowlers. The hosts led by 74 runs at lunch, with four second-innings wickets in hand.
Williamson was particularly watchful from the outset, as Dale Steyn found the reverse-swing that had undone Ross Taylor late on day two. Balls outside off stump were left alone, even those short and wide or overpitched, while the deliveries angled at the stumps were defended resolutely or worked towards the leg side. Williamson had ended the previous evening on 41, but took a further 43 balls to score the nine runs required for his first fifty in five Tests.
Daniel Vettori was almost as reticent, scoring significantly slower than his characteristic busy pace, despite a disposition to be more punishing on bad deliveries. A clipped boundary through the leg side had his innings under way, and though his vanquisher in the first innings, Vernon Philander, troubled him with the ball that darted back in, Vettori's hand-eye coordination was good enough to get bat on ball, even if his footwork was often muddled.
Graeme Smith moved methodically through his arsenal as he searched for a breakthrough, as the New Zealand pair saw out spells from the frontline seamers. But the hosts were reminded of the relentless threat in the opposition attack, when Jacques Kallis produced a terrific effort ball that reared sharply, and took Vettori's glove as he attempted to evade it.
Kruger van Wyk partnered Williamson astutely for his 20, negotiating Kallis and Imran Tahir with confidence, before surviving a short-ball barrage from Dale Steyn. But he could not see out the session against Philander, who swung the ball significantly on his return to the crease, beating van Wyk's outside edge four times, before bringing one back in to take his off stump.