Cape Town - With Australia in firm control over South Africa with a lead of 234 without loss in their second innings, Proteas batsman Faf du Plessis says his team would not be disappointed with a draw.
“We're a little bit behind the eight ball at the moment,” Du Plessis said after day three of the third Test at Newlands, in Cape Town, on Monday.
“It's important for us to not lose the game, and very important to not lose the series. At the moment a draw would look good.”
The hosts were bowled out for 287 in the first innings after Australia declared on their overnight score of 494/7.
Australia chose to not enforce the follow on, after their bowlers had toiled for three sessions in a row.
Du Plessis, who made 67 in South Africa's first innings , said the Proteas would back themselves whether they were chasing down a score, or batting out sessions to draw the match.
“It's always tricky in the third innings as you never know what's a good total to set,” he said.
“If you bat for too long, you take time out of the game. If you bat for too little time they might give us a chance of chasing the total down.
“We've been pretty good in the fourth innings of late.”
Du Plessis confirmed Dale Steyn would have a fitness test on Tuesday morning to determine if he could bowl again in the match.
Steyn bowled 10.1 overs in the first innings, leaving the field with a right hamstring problem.
“We need him, he's the number-one bowler in the world,” Du Plessis said.
“If we can get the ball to reverse, Dale is the best bowler in those conditions.”
Australian left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson returned figures of 4/42 for the tourists as they secured a big lead.
Johnson said his batsman would attempt to pile on the runs during the first session on day four, and could possibly declare at lunch.
“Tomorrow morning we want to use that hard ball, because we know that they're going to reverse the ball,” he said.
“Maybe (bowling) five sessions would be really nice at them, but it also depends on how many runs we get as well.”
Batting on the deteriorating wicket would become much more difficult, Johnson said.
“We need to get a few more runs on the board,” he said.
“That wicket is definitely starting to play a few tricks. It's a bit up and down.”
Openers Chris Rogers (1) and David Warner (25) safely reached the close of play on 27, after coming out to bat for 22 minutes before the close of play.
Earlier, in South Africa's innings, Du Plessis marched to the middle with the score on 121 for four, and attempted to steady the innings.
Two more wickets fell around him, that of AB de Villiers (14) and JP Duminy (4), before he was joined by Vernon Philander.
Together, Du Plessis and Philander put on 95 runs for the seventh wicket, before Australia made the breakthrough. Johnson found the edge of Du Plessis, caught by David Warner at gully.
Steyn put up strong resistance with a knock of 28 before he became Johnson's fourth victim, with Philander ending the innings unbeaten on 37.
In the morning session, South Africa lost four wickets after Australia's declaration.
Proteas captain Graeme Smith's poor run of form in the series continued as he departed for five, edging Ryan Harris through to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
South Africa soon found themselves further in the mire at 42/2 when Dean Elgar (11) was caught behind off James Pattinson.
Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla staged a mini recovery, sharing a third-wicket stand of 53 runs.
Petersen (53) was next to go when he gloved a Johnson delivery down the leg side, giving Haddin his third catch of the morning. Harris then got the ball to jag back in to clean bowl Amla for 38.