With the teams locked at 1-1, South African captain Graeme Smith gambled that his fast bowlers would be able to make early inroads on a pitch which he believed had some moisture.
But it was a pitch which seemed likely to give help to the spinners, particularly at the southern Wynberg end later in the match.
The pitch at the Wynberg end was virtually bare while the Kelvin end had a fair covering of grass.
South Africa made three changes, with Boeta Dippenaar coming in as an opening batsman and AB de Villiers moving down the order to take the place of the suspended Herschelle Gibbs at number six.
All-rounder Shaun Pollock was rested, with Andrew Hall taking his place, while Dale Steyn was picked ahead of Andre Nel in a switch of fast bowlers.
Pakistan made only one change from the team that won the second Test in Port Elizabeth by five wickets, with Shahid Nazir replacing injured fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Boeta Dippenaar, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Paul Harris, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn.
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Nazir, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI), Peter Parker (Aus). TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA).
Match referee: Chris Broad (Eng).