The 25-year-old is slowly and steadily emerging as a fine batsman for India who are now looking towards their future.
As the team vice-captain, Kohli stood tall as the batsmen around him fell to the pace of the South African bowlers who like the ODI series used their fast bowling abilities to claim wickets.
Using his skill and patience at the crease, the Delhi lad batted brilliantly for his century. Helping India reach 255 for 5 on Day 1 though he was out it looked like Kohli had done his bit.
Dale Steyn tortured the Indian batsmen in the ODIs and the middle order and tail in the first Test had to deal with heat from Philander.
The bowler was rewarded as he removed the Indian tail for 16 runs to bowl India out for 280.
Morne Morkel got the prized wicket of Dhoni and did his bit picking two scalps.
With a lead of less than 300, India are on the back foot in this Test and early wickets can help their cause of saving the match as they look set for another loss after the ODI series that they lost 2-0 with the third match being washed out.