A splendid stand between Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock lifted South Africa from a shambolic 94/6 after their batsmen seemed keen to gift their wickets to the Kiwi bowlers. Morkel and Philander combined in a solid tenth wicket partnership to add 47 more as South Africa coasted to 349/9 at stumps.
Earlier, JP Duminy and Hashim Amla decided to give catching practice to the New Zealand fielders while Faf du Plessis went after a wide ball to plot South Africa's early downfall on a pretty flat wicket. If New Zealand thought they had the visitors on the mat, they did not account for two batsmen who have resurrected the team many times in the past year.
De Kock overcame his jitters against Jeetan Patel and cracked a brilliant half-century, eventually falling nine short of what would have been a magnificent hundred. Bavuma, on the other hand, was streaky but importantly survived for long before he was finally consumed at 89.
Philander and Morkel then played responsibly to take South Africa to a lead of 81 and a position of strength at the close of play on Day 2. The game see-sawed between the two teams right through the day with the De Kock-Bavuma stand of 160 the major highlight.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 268/10. South Africa 349/9 (de Kock 91, Bavuma 89, de Grandhomme 3/52)
Take a glance at the talking points of the day from Wellington.
#5 De Grandhomme takes out Amla and Faf du Plessis
There was harakiri when De Grandhomme was selected ahead of Matt Henry on a seaming wicket. The all-rounder is a fine swing bowler and has the ability to trouble batsmen even with his innocent pace.
He had picked up the big fish, Dean Elgar, yesterday when the opener went for a hard push outside off. On Day 2, in the morning session, he was benefitted by a loose flick from Amla that tested in the hands of a diving Henry Nicholls.
The well-built all-rounder then removed Faf du Plessis with a ball that moved away from off-stump. The South African skipper decided to go after it but only managed an edge to Watling, gifting another wicket to De Grandhomme.
#4 Duminy, Amla shots raise question marks
Hashim Amla hasn't been in great nick this summer and some of his shots have lacked the confidence and panache that the batsman is known for. Duminy, on the other hand, has been playing some fine innings at no.4 but the trend of wasting starts hadn't quite buckled.
Today, both of them fell to nothing deliveries from the Kiwi bowlers. Duminy flicked Wagner down the throat of mid-wicket for 16 when the ball hardly did anything and was moving down the leg-side.
Amla soon followed him with another bizarre air-ish flick off de Grandhomme that Nicholls gobbled up at short mod-wicket. Irresponsible dismissals from two senior players on a pitch they should have grafted away left South Africa at 79/5.
#3 De Kock conquers Patel curse
Quinton de Kock walked out to the middle with a huge burden on his shoulders. South Africa were 94/6 and he had to face his nemesis in the series, Jeetan Patel. The first 15 balls he faced turned out to be an enthralling contest between Patel and him as the off-spinner had de Kock bamboozled.
Once he cut Patel for a boundary, the confidence slowly started improving. He ramped Southee for a six before taking on Wagner over fine-leg. A lofted six off Patel followed soon after he had made his half-century.
The wicket-keeper batsman did just what Henry Nicholls had done for New Zealand the day before. He piled on some crucial and quick runs in the company of a stable Temba Bavuma and helped the Proteas take a crucial lead from a precarious position in the morning session. Unfortunately, de Kock fell to Neesham on 91, missing out on a hundred that was there for the taking.
#2 Temba Bavuma, South Africa's crisis man
Temba Bavuma's Test average reads an unimpressive 32.76 after 19 Tests. But there is a story that stats do not tell. The short statured dynamic batsman has played a valuable knock each time the team has needed him to step up.
In short, he has been their crisis man. Be it the gutsy unbeaten 78 against England at Centurion or the half-centuries at Perth and Hobart, Bavuma has ensured he puts a price on his wicket every time the team needs.
Today, he strung together a game-changing 160-run stand with Quinton de Kock to help South Africa from a deep hole they dug themselves. Bavuma was edgy in parts but the sheer manner in which he held himself together at the crease deserves praise. He fell 11 short of a deserved hundred.
#1 Morkel-Philander hurt New Zealand
South Africa already had a lead in excess of 30 when Morne Morkel walked out to bat. Normally a walking wicket, the Matthew Hayden fan unleashed three back to back fours off Wagner to reveal his intentions.
Philander gained more confidence from Morkel's powerful shots and rotated the strike effortlessly as Morkel co times to pound the Black Caps' bowlers. The partnership was frustrating for New Zealand after they thought they had restricted South Africa to a minor lead.
Philander, in particular, has been pretty good with the bat in recent times in Tests and this innings has just improved his credentials as a handy all-rounder. He remained unbeaten on 36 and Morkel on 31 as the 47 run stand took South Africa to a lead of 81.