DURBAN - South African captain Faf du Plessis and New Zealand coach Mike Hesson both expressed disappointment after the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand was abandoned as a draw due to poor ground conditions on Tuesday.

No play was possible on days three, four and five because of a wet, soft outfield which the umpires decided would be dangerous for players. No play took place after rain fell during the lunch break on the second day on Saturday, when New Zealand were on 15 for two in reply to South Africa 's first innings total of 263. Rain continued throughout the rest of Saturday and into early Sunday morning.

The weather cleared and there was no further rain but the outfield conditions did not improve sufficiently for play to resume.

"We were dying to get out there," said Du Plessis. "New Zealand were in a spot of bother on a wicket which was giving a lot of assistance."

Despite that Du Plessis said that he respected the decision of the umpires. "There were areas that were muddy and loose underfoot. The message was clear from the umpires that the players' safety was their main concern," he said. "Both teams were very keen to play," said Hesson. "But we respect the decision of the umpires."

The series will now be decided in the second and final Test starting at Centurion on Saturday. "It's disappointing that a Test series becomes a one-off," said Du Plessis.

"Test cricket is about longer, stronger, who can do it for the longest time."

But he said there were several positives for South Africa going into Centurion for the decider. "Winning the toss on a greenish wicket, our opening pair had a real solid partnership against a quality seam attack. Looking back we had a good score in the conditions although it was disappointing that we didn't score 300 or 350," he said. "We got ourselves into positions where we just needed one guy to bat a bit longer."

Du Plessis said opening bowlers Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, both returning after injuries, had been outstanding in the six overs each which they had bowled. "The guys were relentless. They hit excellent areas and didn't give the New Zealand batsmen any free runs."

Following Monday's washout, Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat blamed unseasonal rain and a re-laid outfield for the loss of play at the Kingsmead ground. He said the outfield had been relaid in June following complaints by players about conditions during a Twenty20 international and a one-day international there in August 2015, also involving New Zealand.

"However, the unseasonal rain at this time of year impacted our preparations of the newly laid outfield," he added.

Scoreboard

SOUTH AFRICA 1ST INNINGS: 263

NEW ZEALAND 1ST INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 15-2):

M Guptill lbw b Steyn 7

T Latham c Amla b Steyn 4

K Williamson not out 2

R Taylor not out 2

EXTRAS: 0

TOTAL: (2 wkts, 12 overs) 15

FOW: 1-7, 2-12

BOWLING: Steyn 6-4-3-2, Philander 6-1-12-0

TOSS: South Africa

UMPIRES: Ian Gould, Richard Illingworth (both ENG)

TV UMPIRE: Paul Reiffel (AUS)

MATCH REFEREE: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)