New Zealand edged ahead on a rain-curtailed day by dismissing four of the Proteas batsmen after the visitors opted to bat first. Having lost their openers in quick time, Amla and du Plessis helped them to 123/4 at stumps although the former was dismissed after a half-century.
New Zealand, playing without their strike bowlers, Boult and Southee, rode on some excellent bowling by de Grandhomme and Matt Henry as they pushed South Africa to a corner with frequent wickets.
Rain prevented them from making further inroads into the South African batting line-up. Amla's solid half-century was the only major highlight for the Proteas and they would be pleased that New Zealand had no reviews left when du Plessis edged Wagner behind.
Brief Scores: South Africa 123/4 (Amla 50, du Plessis 33, Henry 2/25).
Here are the talking points from day 1 of the final Test at Hamilton.
#5 Theunis de Bruyn's unlucky debut
South Africa are probably the one team that is consistent in its team selection. Once a player is selected, he is usually given a fair run in the side.
However, they seemed to have had enough of Stephen Cook's hanging bat despite not having a reserve opener in the squad.
In came Theunis de Bruyn – a middle order batsman – opening the innings on a green pitch against some quality seamers. Sure enough, he edged his third ball to slip off Matt Henry to depart for a duck. It was pretty harsh on the Knights player to be asked to bat in an unfamiliar position on debut.
#4 Matt Henry and de Grandhomme shoulder responsibility
With strike bowlers, Trent Boult and Tim Southee out of action, New Zealand needed their back-up seamers to fire. They had Scott Kuggeleijn called up but opted to go with de Grandhomme and Henry on the day.
Both the seamers justified the call by bowling the right channels and making the batsmen play. de Grandhomme found prodigious swing and had Elgar bowled while leaving the ball. Henry, meanwhile, had already gotten rid of Theunis de Bruyn.
Duminy soon fell hooking a well directed short ball by Henry and de Grandhomme had the settled Amla bowled between his pads with another ripper. Boult and Southee were hardly missed as the new ball pair delivered the goods for the Kiwis.
#3 Hashim Amla's solid half-century
Amla seemed like the only batsman to get a hang of the conditions as he negotiated Matt Henry and de Grandhomme with ease. His timing was lovely and his feet were moving, unlike his recent Test innings.
Amla started off with a couple of beautiful shots through the covers off Henry before he unleashed some typical back foot punches to race to a fine half-century. Just when he looked set for a big one, he was undone by de Grandhomme's outswinger.
Amla's form has been worrying for the Proteas but this knock should give him some confidence. Nevertheless, he will be disappointed with the manner in which he played across the line on a green pitch to be dismissed.
#2 Faf du Plessis’ lucky escape
New Zealand had already wasted their reviews against JP Duminy and lived to regret that decision when Faf du Plessis edged one from Wagner to the keeper.
The umpire turned down the appeal although snicko revealed that there was a tiny edge. The South African skipper was only on 16 at the time and went on to play a typical gritty knock, remaining unbeaten on 33 when stumps was called early.
Much of South Africa's first innings hopes rest on du Plessis as Bavuma, despite a fine knock in the last Test, hasn't been all that consistent and de Kock is still under an injury cloud despite being selected to play.
#1 Rain looms large
Cloud cover was present right through the day at Hamilton as New Zealand looked to claw their way back into the Test series. Rain never looked far off and sure enough, play was interrupted once before the players eventually got back onto the field to resume their battle.
However, at 15:20 local time, rain lashed around Hamilton yet again. Although it had almost stopped raining by 17:30, the outfield was slippery which prompted the umpires to call off play.
Rain is forecast for all five days with Sunday expected to be fully washed out. South Africa, who are leading 1-0 in the series, won't have too many complaints while the hosts will feel hard done by if they are unable to produce a result due to weather conditions.