Theunis de Bruyn heads back to the dressing room after losing his wicket on day four of the third Test. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

RAIN in Hamilton ensured that South Africa and New Zealand drew the third and final Test on Wednesday, which saw the touring South Africans complete a clean sweep of the summer Test series.

There was not a single ball bowled on the final day, as the rain that had been predicted finally arrived, and denied New Zealand a chance to have a crack at collecting the remaining five wickets they needed to bowl out South Africa.

It was an anti-climatic end to what has been an engaging visit to New Zealand by South Africa, and their final offering on the field of play would have left them with much to ponder.

The top-order had one of their worst returns in recent times, and the number of high-profile batsmen struggling for form must be a huge concern for the national selectors.

It must be emphasised that the final Test capitulation occurred with New Zealand missing their two most experienced bowlers in Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

That a largely second-string attack has troubled the Proteas is a major concern, especially with the quality of opposition and attacks that lie in wait over the next year.

The stop-gap selection of Theunis de Bruyn as an opener will surely not be repeated, and the challenge over the winter is on finding and trusting an opener for the long haul.

Stephen Cook's struggles this year, after a stellar career in franchise cricket, have only emphasised the chasm between first-class cricket and the international level.

Age also counts against the Lions man when looking for a long-term solution, and he may well have played his last match for South Africa.

Though the Proteas have beaten Australia and New Zealand away, and also Sri Lanka at home, they will know that there is much improvement to be made before rising from their new spot at number two in the world rankings.

India are at the summit, and the Proteas are currently closer to third rather than first.

Independent Media