And Du Plessis was disappointed with the way South Africa responded to challenges in the first Test, pointing to England's recovery from 76-4 to 458 in the first innings as a particular source of irritation.
Du Plessis missed the first Test at Lord's following the birth of his first child and the Proteas wilted in their skipper's absence, slumping to a 211-run loss.
The tourists had gone into the interval firmly in the ascendency after Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock's 113-run stand took their team to 179 for two.
England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow: "It is pretty even".
"We have some great memories here", said Root, who is the owner of the last two Test centuries at this venue.
In a match which saw Joe Root make the most of his early luck to post a first-innings 190, South Africa's failure to convert cost them.
Asked if the England bowlers bowled too short: "I don't think so".
Instead, Anderson and Broad can only return in the hope of better on day two.
Rabada has taken 77 wickets in 18 career Tests at an impressive average of under 25 apiece and Elgar said: "He is a vitally important bowler. It could have been a different day".
"They played well first up, counter-acting any movement, and didn't really give a chance until that (Dean) Elgar (dismissal)".
"When he has bowled he's been right on it and got the most out of it".More news: Boyd Holbrook's Exit from 'Narcos' Confirmed, Season 3 Teaser Trailer Released
"Those decisions you constantly have to make, getting judged on them all the time eventually can take its toll on you".
"It's a part of worldwide cricket - there are going to be a lot of people giving you advice".
From the first ball after tea, De Kock played a waft at Broad and was held at first slip by Alastair Cook, then Amla inexplicably hooked a bouncer from the same bowler straight to deep backward square leg.
South Africa could nonetheless reflect that they had responded effectively so far to their Lord's setback.
De Kock, who scored 68, insisted: "We had a lot to prove after losing the First Test".
"It was disappointing the way the last Test ended".
"It was very up and down today".
England made the flawless start to the final session when Broad dismissed De Kock first ball and then got rid of Amla three overs later.
However, they suffered a setback in the final session when they lost four wickets for 56 runs, including both Amla and De Kock, before Philander and Morris shared an unbroken partnership of 74 runs to get the Proteas to the close on a healthy 309/6.
"We'd have liked to have done better".
"He knows what he's doing because he's done it for such a long time now, and he will be desperate to do well when he gets his opportunity".