Opportunity knocked, during South Africa's landslide series victory over New Zealand recently, to laud Dale Steyn as a greater fast bowler than Allan Donald ever was.

What was undecided then, despite Steyn's haul of 13 victims in two matches, and his unrivalled standing in with bookmakers like Paddy Power, has surely been decided now on the back of a prolific 11 scalps against Pakistan at the Wanderers.

A mere eight wickets shy of surpassing his mentor's Test record of 330, Steyn has already bettered Donald's accrual of 20 five-wicket hauls and three 10-wicket hauls by one and two respectively - in nine less matches.

Steyn, too, is close to equalling the 10 years his current bowling coach spent in the Test match arena - and although a fit 29-year-old frame is expected to bring him at least five more seasons of topflight pace bowling, today, numerically, there is very little to separate the contenders.

Statistics alone, though, won't win an argument - and it's the composition of their careers that will tell the truest tale - and convince those who like to bet on cricket. While an unequivocal verdict will ultimately be decided by Steyn's 331st Test wicket, perhaps as soon as next week's Newlands clash, other variables must not discount Donald.

As quick as Hashim Amla is to insist he is not the best batsman in the side, despite his recent climb to the top of the ICC player rankings, so too will Steyn acknowledge the rise of the rest.

The planet's number one-ranked bowler would surely have endured a considerably less successful 12 months were it not for his support - offered in ample supply by fellow seamers Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis.

The quartet are the Yin to each others' Yang, a composite attack complemented and completed by spinner Robin Peterson, and spurred on by a bowling coach who sported similar contemporaries in Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock through the 1990s and early 2000s.

Key to Steyn's dominance - and preservation - has been the brains trusts' handling of him through limited-overs competition. While his infrequent omission, most recently during a key juncture in the ODI series against the Black Caps, has been blamed for defeat, the bigger picture has taken precedent.

Donald was subjected to almost three times as many matches than Steyn during a 12-year ODI dalliance, and, ultimately, arguably emerged worse for wear for it in Test match cricket. The lessons learned by Donald's experience, one surmises, has been at the fore of his successor's lighter limited-overs workload.

Instrumental, too, has been the steadfast leadership placed over Steyn. Donald played under three captains and multiple coaches, while his protege has been guided by the steady hands of Graeme Smith and Mickey Arthur, and more recently Gary Kirsten.

The consistency in the coaching staff and their collective ideals, the unwavering backing of Smith at the helm and Steyn's indisputable determination has only served to make a more complete package - over a prolonged period.

While fans, foes and cricket's competitive nature in general demand one winner, perhaps there is place for a shared mantle. The West Indies cherished their Curtly Ambrose-Courtney Walsh combination and Pakistan their Wasim Akram-Waqar Younis alliance, while Australia were privy to Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee as a terrifying twosome.

The quest for a prolific pair isn't limited to one generation, though, and together Donald and Steyn have spanned over two decades of top-quality fast bowling. Similar heights await Steyn and Philander, as they did Ntini and Pollock after Donald's departure. The chain is solid, and only strengthened by its ongoing ream of inter-generational twin links.