There is nothing about Dean Elgar that reeks of class or flamboyance. The gritty, solid opening batsman isn't someone you would pay to watch in the stadium. But when the chips are down and his team is spiralling to hell, expect Elgar to bring out his ugly game and salvage the situation.

South African openers, ever since their return after Apartheid, were known for their positive minded approach to the crease. While Gary Kirsten was more conventional and solid, even he didn't back out from playing his shots early on.

Andrew Hudson thrived on rapid starts while Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen were both batsmen who looked to score on every opportunity that presented itself. Herschelle Gibbs was, well, Herschelle Gibbs. He barely backed out from playing shots against the brand new cherry.

The latest entry into the Test arena, Aiden Markram, is another of those flashy South African openers.

Elgar is unlike all of them. His shots are ugly, his technique is questionable and he has a whole array of weaknesses. Yet, not one person, even when Elgar isn't scoring runs, would question his temperament or composure.

His opening partner, Aiden Markram, posted an apt tweet soon after his eleventh Test hundred against Australia at Cape Town on Thursday.

Notice how Markram says that Elgar would be the “first man you take to war”. It is here that the importance of Elgar shoots up and goes level with that of the other big names in the South African batting line-up.

He does not have the aura of a Hashim Amla, the swag of Faf du Plessis, the outrageous talent of AB de Villiers or the flashy flair of Quinton de Kock. Yet, he would be among the first names in the team sheet if South Africa were going to war.

It is his relentless steeliness combined with his ability to churn out runs even when things go awry that make him a smart opener.

Most batsmen shy away when the ball thuds into the body but for Elgar, the sweet spot is on his body. A few body blows and he is in the right rhythm to go out there and score runs. If somebody is chirping away at him, all the more better. Virat Kohli, during the recent Indian tour of South Africa, was continually taunting Elgar but the southpaw loved it.

“We are all very competitive on the field and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He (Kohli) is a competitive feisty guy and it comes out in his cricket. I think he wants the best for his team like anyone. I’m not going to delve into what happened in Cape Town, but it’s something that really gets me going, when someone is in my ear and trying to put me down. It’s a nice motivating factor to keep me going,” said Elgar.

The Australians are no less competent and do not mince their words either. So far, though, they have managed to scuffle very few of Elgar's feathers.

While he was hit several times in the first two Tests, at Cape Town, on day 1, a completely different Elgar was on show.

Earlier in the series, he had edged spinner Nathan Lyon back twice but here he seemed least perturbed. He waltzed down to counter Lyon, played across the line, even hoisted him over long-on and got under his skin with his batting. Lyon had also dropped Elgar in his 50s of Josh Hazlewood's bowling and the spinner was further tormented by Elgar.

Unlike his usual ugly self, Elgar was almost sassy. His rate of scoring was better than at most times, he timed the pants out of flicks and drives and Australia, who always manage a way to taunt the southpaw, had no answers.

Even as wickets tumbled around him after an enterprising stand, Elgar stood unfazed, untroubled and well, gritty. Pat Cummins was in the middle of a dream spell and had sliced through South Africa's middle-order - AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock. Elgar remained unbeaten and literally carried South Africa through to stumps.

He might not be what Batman is to Gotham or Kohli is to India but in a country where flashy is trending and 360° batsmen rule the roost, Elgar, in his own repulsive way, is a hero.