Kane Williamson believes patience is a key ingredient if New Zealand's batsmen are to make a better fist of combating South Africa's formidable pace battery in the third and final cricket test starting in Wellington on Friday.

New Zealand must win to square the three-test series, after their nine-wicket defeat at Hamilton last Saturday.

While the bowlers have generally performed solidly in the series, the batsmen have been under the pump trying to make headway against world-beating trio Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

Williamson's fighting 77 was the standout innings for New Zealand at Hamilton, but there have been too few efforts like that.


''It was nice to spend some time in the middle but it was kind of half a job," the 21-year-old said.

''It was a shame not to get more runs on the board so we had something more to bowl at."

New Zealand were all out for 168 in their second innings, leaving South Africa just 101 to win the test and take an unbeatable lead in the series.

Williamson rates the South Africans the most formidable attack he has faced in a career still in its developmental stage. He has played 11 tests, averages 30.52 and is learning all the time.

''It was pretty tough," he said of the South African attack, he rates the toughest he's come up against.

''They are a really good bowling attack, arguably the best in the world, and they're very disciplined, so it makes decision-making hard. I feel you've got to be patient. That's what I tried to do for as long as I could."

And patience is a virtue the New Zealand batsmen need to discover in the next four days before play starts at the Basin Reserve.

''You try and share ideas," Williamson said of the batting group.

''But everyone has their own game plan, their own style to an extent.

But with their attack there's less balls to score off than a lot of attacks, so patience and good decision-making is the key in playing these bowlers."

In the two tests, New Zealand batsmen have amassed just three half centuries - although only four batsmen went to the crease in the second innings of the opening test at Dunedin - while South Africa can point to three centuries and five fifties.

''There's been a lot of starts, forties and fifties, but we haven't gone on and we've made that one mistake, because of the demanding bowling we've been up against. That's the challenge, to get through that and get those big scores."

Hamilton man of the match Vernon Philander, took 10 for 114, continuing a terrific start to his test career. In six tests since debuting against Australia in November, the fast-medium Philander has taken 45 wickets at just 13 runs apiece.

He's got the lowest world ranking of the three South Africans at No 16, with Steyn at No 1, and Morkel No 9. But Philander is rising like a quality soufflé.

''He's extremely consistent with his areas," Williamson said. ''He bowls that fourth and fifth stump lines, moves it both ways which makes it quite difficult. On a track like Hamilton, where it began to get very flat, he still seemed to get something out of it."

And with speculation over the ideal New Zealand top six batting order, Williamson isn't putting his hand up for a specific role. He is No 5 at the moment, but has done time at No 3. It's a fair bet that's where he will finish up in time.

''I'm still growing and learning my game. I'm happy batting wherever," he said.

''The more important things are about when I get to the crease and applying myself."