BJ Watling had a day to savour at St George's Park today - and earned high praise from the world's best bowler.
Watling carried on from his overnight 15 to be last man out for 63 in New Zealand's first innings 121, then reached stumps on 41 as he and Dean Brownlie carried the tourists to 157 for four at the end of day three.
South Africa still lead overall by 247 but Watling and Brownlie put some starch into the New Zealand batting with their unbroken 73-run stand.
"It was a tough day out there but I thoroughly enjoyed it at the same time," Watling said.
"There's no place you'd rather be. You're out there against the best and it's how you learn and how you get better. Great fun."
Dale Steyn's five for 17 off 13 overs in New Zealand's first innings was his 19th haul of five wickets in his 62nd test. He's now taken 55 New Zealand wickets in his 10th test against them at a cost of a staggering 10.11 apiece.
He was near unplayable in the morning session as he wiped out the tail, Doug Bracewell, hapless Jeetan Patel and Neil Wagner.
''He's a good player," Steyn said of the New Zealand wicketkeeper.
''He doesn't want to give his wicket away, that's for sure. He's a typical wicketkeeper-batsman, stubborn, sticks around, short," he quipped.
''But he's very gutsy and has been impressive to bowl to."
At 62 for nine, New Zealand were in real danger of sliding under the previous lowest first innings score at St George's, 84 by South Africa against England in 1889, until Watling found a reliable ally in last man Trent Boult.
The Northern Districts pair put on 59, eclipsing the previous New Zealand 10th wicket record against South Africa, 57 by Simon Doull and Richard de Groen at Johannesburg in 1994.
Watling struck out with a string of fine drives and cuts. Boult slammed seamer Rory Kleinveldt for six, breaking a window in the process.
At one point the pair rattled on 35 in the space of four overs.
''There was definitely a shift to try and get as many runs as possible with Boulty there. He got himself in and looked really solid as well and played some nice shots.
''I had plenty of confidence in Trent and I was able to play my game and I relied on him to not get out and he did a great job.
"I started seeing the ball well and managed to find a few gaps which was good."
Openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill got to 40 when the follow was made, and with New Zealand trailing by 404 before the New Zealand captain departed. He was leg before to left arm spinner Robin Peterson for the third successive innings on 11 after battling 88 minutes.
Kane Williamson's miserable series ended shortly after, bowled by a ball from Peterson which kept low.
Guptill's best innings of the series ended at 48, bowled by a good delivery from burly Kleinveldt and lefthander Daniel Flynn was caught behind next ball.
However Watling, technically the soundest of the New Zealand batsmen, and first test centurymaker Brownlie dug in to good effect.
Steyn reckoned today was the best day for batting in the match. It certainly seemed to get a touch easier as the afternoon wore on, if that word could be applied to facing Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kleinveldt.
Watling had hit seven fours, Brownlie eight by stumps.
Watling began his test career as an opener, against Pakistan in 2009 and he's relishing the learning experience of a new role, and new opportunities in the test team.
''I'm learning every time and I've still got plenty of things to work on," Watling said.
''Each game I'm trying to evolve and make sure I don't make the same mistakes and just work away and I managed to get a few away which is good."By David Leggat In Port Elizabeth