Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma kept South Africa afloat at the Basin Reserve yesterday.

But this isn't the first time this summer they have steadied South Africa in tricky situations.

In Perth at the WACA Ground in the first test against Australia late last year, de Kock made 84, Bavuma 51 to pull South Africa from 81 for five to help set up a 177-run win.

A few days later in Hobart, de Kock's 104 and Bavuma's 74 lifted South Africa from 132 for five and that led to an innings and 80-run win.

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So they know the score and their performance yesterday, 160 for the seventh wicket revived South Africa, from a limping 94 for six to an 81-run lead over New Zealand with one wicket still standing.

"I thought they batted really well and showed a lot of fight, which you can expect from a South African team," Pretoria-born New Zealand seam bowler Neil Wagner said last night. "They never gave us a chance. I thought we had them in a tough and difficult position, so full credit to [de Kock] and Bavuma, who showed lot patience and grafted through that period."

De Kock admitted the heat was on the pair, after South Africa had slumped to 94 for six.

"The mindset was somehow to switch the pressure back onto them. We didn't want to get bogged down and the only way I knew was to play my natural game -- I was a bit more aggressive than usual."

He knew his tour nemesis, offspinner Jeetan Patel, would be on shortly after he arrived at the crease. Patel had dismissed him in all four innings they'd faced each other on this tour.

"I've played against so many offies in my life, I know Jeetan is a good bowler and does have me four out of four, but I knew I could get on top of him if I get my head down.

"It happened today, luckily, and it was nice to get one over him."

The 81-run lead is largely down to de Kock and Bavuma.

"It's always nice getting into a situation with a guy I've played my whole career with," said de Kock.

"With a lead of 80 it's very handy. If they [last pair Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel] can keep scoring more runs, happy days."