Du Plessis calls on in-form players to make it count

Faf du Plessis pulls during his brisk 41 Associated Press

This may sound counter-intuitive but South Africa don't want a hero. Not one, anyway. They want many.

"In every series, every time there has been a saviour in the batting line-up. If we don't have those guys who save us on the day, there would have been a few times when we would have been rolled out cheaply," Faf du Plessis said ahead of the Hamilton Test. "That's a concern. It's not good enough. We want more consistency."

Despite being 1-0 up in the series, South Africa's batting has not been at its best with half of the top six struggling. Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy have yet to score a fifty and South Africa only have one hundred in this series, from Dean Elgar, compared to New Zealand's two, scored by Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls.

Though Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock have five fifties between them, South Africa see that as below-par because they do not have any player racking up more than one hundred in the series. "The standards we set for ourselves as a batting unit are extremely high and we haven't delivered on that," du Plessis said.

After du Plessis' lone hundred in the two home Tests against New Zealand in August, South Africa set their batsmen a challenge to try and score more than one century in a series. Essentially, they want those who find form to make the most of it. No one managed that in Australia - though they had five centuries - or the home series against Sri Lanka, where they had another five. Cook came closest, when he scored hundreds in successive Tests in Adelaide and Port Elizabeth.

That means the pressure is as much on Elgar to try to add another three-figure score as it is on the out-of-form players to get among the runs. If he does that, it may not have much of an impact on continuity because the season ends here, but it will ensure South Africa have achieved everything they set out to do at the start of a season they began at No.7 in the Test rankings.

"Our goal was to get to No.2 at the end - we knew No.1 was going to be a little bit steep because India were so far ahead - so our goal was to get to No.2 and if we do that, it will be an incredible year," du Plessis sad. "We would have ticked every box, won every series we've played and I saw there will be a nice little bonus for second place as well, so that will be nice to get the guys going."

A cash award of $500,000 is awarded to the team in second place in the Test rankings and though it is only half of what South Africa have received in previous years, when they topped the rankings, it is much more than they would have expected after last season's disappointments. And the money is only one reason South Africa have their eye on a series win.

Victory in New Zealand will restore their road warrior reputation, which extended nine years before being dented by defeat in India in 2015. That remains the only series South Africa have lost away from home in a decade, a testament to their ability to adapt.

"I don't think people appreciate and understand exactly how well the South African team before me and the guys that are playing now did. The record was exceptional. That India series was the one series where we were outplayed but apart from that we've been really good," du Plessis said. "Mentally we are a very resilient team. We know that whatever the situation on the day, you have to find a way and try and make sure you deliver. You can never use an excuse, whether it's green or spinning. You just have to get on and do the job. Our mental toughness has helped us."