Hamilton: South Africa's attempt to top the one-day cricket rankings before next year's World Cup will depend on a showdown with Australia next month after rain dashed their hopes in New Zealand on Monday.
South Africa needed to complete a three-match clean sweep against New Zealand to overtake the current number-one ranked Australia.
But after comfortably winning the first two matches, the third was washed out in the 31st over at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
South Africa were well placed on 157-3 with Quinton de Kock unbeaten on 80 and AB de Villiers on 33.
The pair had put on 87 for the fourth wicket as they cashed in on an unsettled New Zealand attack in gloomy conditions before rain forced the players from the field.
The game was abandoned three hours later with no sign of the weather clearing.
"It's a shame about the weather. We set it up nicely. We could have got a decent total," de Villiers said before he immediately turned his attention to the five-match clash with Australia starting in Perth on November 14.
"We'd love to go to Australia and win that series as well. That will give us a nice confidence boost," he said.
New Zealand and Australia co-host the World Cup starting next February, and de Villiers said the Proteas' Australasian tour was about getting used to the conditions so "hopefully we are prepared as well as we can be for the World Cup".
But while South Africa took confidence from the ease with which they despatched New Zealand in the first two games, the Black Caps were left to ponder how to remedy a brittle batting line-up.
The top score by a recognised batsman in their two innings was 29 by rookie Tom Latham, as New Zealand struggled without leading scorers Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson who were both injured.
In the first game New Zealand slumped to 68-5 following a top order collapse and South Africa overtook their eventual 230 total for the loss of four wickets.
The second match featured another dismal start for New Zealand, who were reduced to 69-5 while South Africa's top five put on more than 260 runs.
South Africa "were too classy for us throughout the series", said New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.
"It was a tough time for the batters against a very good South African bowling line-up. It's never nice coming second but as long as you learn lessons from it then you're going to benefit from it."
New Zealand head to the United Arab Emirates later this week for a Test and limited-overs series against Pakistan before returning home to host Sri Lanka and then Pakistan ahead of the World Cup.
After South Africa's limited-overs series in Australia they play the West Indies at home before returning to Seddon Park for their first World Cup pool match against Zimbabwe on February 15.