AB Villiers has spent over five hours in the middle for his 39 off 214 balls in the third and final Test against Australia at the Newlands Stadium. Photo: Luigi Bennet

Cape Town – South Africa were doing their utmost to resist Australia's victory charge as they lost just night watchman Kyle Abbott in an extended session on the fifth morning of the series-deciding third test at Newlands on Wednesday.

The home side went to lunch on 122 for five having been set a nominal 511 for victory, doggedly repelling Australia's attack as they added just 51 runs in 39 overs and kept alive hopes of a miracle escape that would deny the tourists a series victory.

Abbott faced 89 balls for his seven runs before he attempted to leave a James Pattinson delivery that cannoned into the top of off-stump just six minutes shy of two hours at the crease.

AB de Villiers has spent over five hours in the middle for his 39 that has come off 214 balls, showing little intent to play shots, but also offering nothing in the way of chances.

He will resume after the interval with Faf du Plessis (14), who frustrated Australia on debut in Adelaide in November 2012 when South Africa, starting the final day of the test also four wickets down, saved the test.

Du Plessis also scored a fourth innings hundred against India in December that saved a test in Johannesburg and should South Africa repeat those heroics, it is likely these two will have to play the leading role.

The wicket has flattened out significantly for the Australian bowlers, who will hope to make further breakthroughs with the new ball which will be available directly after lunch.

It is likely to be the crucial period in the final day's play because if South Africa come through unscathed, they will back themselves to hang on for the draw.

Australia captain Michael Clarke was spoken to by the umpires over attempts to scuff up the old ball by firing it in to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin on the bounce between deliveries.

The tourists will have a minimum of 59 overs to get the remaining five South African wickets and will be hoping to find some reverse-swing as the new ball ages.

The series is level at 1-1. – Reuters