New Zealand's two premier batsmen should have a sense of unfinished business when the two-test cricket series against South Africa starts in Durban on Friday night.

For all their batting form and performance, captain Kane Williamson and former skipper Ross Taylor have relatively ordinary returns against South Africa.

Williamson averages 51.29 from 50 tests, and ranks third in the world's best test batsmen. Against South Africa, in nine innings, he's averaging 34.0 with one, albeit memorable, century - to save the Basin Reserve test in 2012.

Taylor averages 48.66 from 71 tests. When facing South Africa, also from nine innings, he's going at 30.71.


If New Zealand are to have a chance of pressing for their first test series victory against South Africa, those two players will need to offer heavy run production.

Taylor has just climbed back into the world's top 10 batsmen, at ninth. Williamson is now in a running duel for the top ranking with Australia's Steve Smith, and England's Joe Root. That three-cornered contest could run for years.

There's also the small matter of a formidable South African seam bowling attack to contend with.

Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, who tormented New Zealand on their ill-starred 2013 tour, are back from injury layoffs. Kagiso Rabada, with 24 wickets in his first six tests, is likely to complete a quality seam trio.

Ross Taylor. Photo / Warren Buckland
Ross Taylor. Photo / Warren Buckland

"They have a lot of variety, some bounce bowlers, swing bowlers, seam bowlers and that will provide it's own challenges," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said.

"Philander has loads of overs under his belt. He's a high quality bowler. We saw him at his best a few years ago. He hits lovely lengths.

"Rabada has pace, bounce, plenty of skill and he's fresh so he keeps running in at you hard.

"We know he's a quality bowler. And with Steyn at the other end, there's no let-off."

It'll certainly be a stiffer challenge than that posed by the willing, but inadequate, Zimbabwe fast-medium bowlers.

Hesson won't project what his improving test team are capable of, other than further improvement.

New Zealand are ranked fifth in the test game, one spot higher than South Africa, who have lost five, drawn four and won just two of their 11 tests since the start of last year.

"We just talk about getting better all the time.," Hesson said.

"As a test side, bar the odd aberration, our test ability has certainly improved over the last few years, but that doesn't guarantee you anything."