South Africa's great fast bowler Dale Steyn has ingited a war with Black Cap Neil Wagner, suggesting he lacked true courage while batting during the second test in Pretoria.

The Pretoria-born Wagner clouted Steyn for three fours and a six within five deliveries, the New Zealand No. 10 batsman scoring 31 off 30 before Steyn dismissed him.

Steyn was not overly impressed. He admires Wagner's tough approach and some of his bowling, but suggested his innings showed false courage, and that Wagner let his captain Kane Williamson down.

Steyn said: "He backed away and slogged away...maybe didn't back away but stood and played the pull shot.

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"But if he wanted to be more courageous and brave he would have been 30 off 90 and watched his captain get to 100 rather than score 31 and walk off the pitch and say I've done my job. That's not your job.

"He gives his all but I would have tried to hang out there and even get 10 of 50 balls and see Kane through to 100, rather than walk off with 30 and think I've done my job."

Steyn also gave a lengthy analysis of Wagner's sometimes controversial short pitched bowling.

"He's at that pace where...you always feel there's a chance you can take him on, but he is a lot skiddier than you think he is and he's got good skill," said Steyn.

"He gets his bouncer really high, he doesn't bowl chest high which is an easy height, he hits the head. He makes it difficult for the batters to play.

"So you feel like you can take him on but there's always the risk of when you hit the bouncer you might hit it in the air with the chance you might get caught."

South Africa are in total control, leading by 372 with four second wickets and two days remaining. Steyn suggested the Kiwis had very little chance of survival.

"The longer the sun bakes the wicket and we get our bats into the cracks and just widen them up a little bit, it's going to be more difficult to bat," he said.