Graeme Smith is inspired by the packed crowds in England, Neil Manthorp told Cricket Writers on TV.
The South African scored his 100th hundred in his 100th Test match to lay the platform for the tourists to build a significant first innings lead at the Oval.
He was eventually dismissed by Tim Bresnan for 131 but by then the Proteas captain had combined with Hashim Amla to make 260 and edge South Africa to within striking distance of England's 385.
"Graeme Smith enjoys the big stage," said South African writer and broadcaster Manthorp. "He's a top sportsman and a top performer - and there is no greater stage than here in England.
"When he walks out in a Test match in England he sees an arena with every seat sold - we don't get that in South Africa. We've never had that for a Test match.
"He's got a sense of occasion and a sense of history that people don't necessarily associate with the modern cricketer and he just rises to the big occasion.
"He's a once in a generation kind of person. Some people get intimidated by pressure but for him it's quite the opposite."
The Daily Telegraph's Derek Pringle was also full of praise for the South Africa skipper and said he was impressed with the batsman's patience - even if his style leaves a little to be to be desired.
"England's plan would have been to do what the Aussies do to him," said Pringle. "They bowl about a foot outside off stump to him and have had great success against him. But he's got an incredible record against England and it seems on these pitches it doesn't quite work.
"He's so mentally strong he 'out-bored' the England bowlers and as soon as they started to bowl a little straighter he put it through the leg-side where there weren't any fielders.
"When you look at Smith bat you think he looks quite good but a lot of people may not pay a lot of money to go and watch that. But you can't argue with his performances because he's so tough mentally. He's not had much preparation coming into this so you have to admire him to go and get 131."
Peter Hayter from the Mail on Sunday concurred, pointing to Smith's superb record in England.
"He got two double hundreds in his first three innings against England and now he just churns them out," he said. "He's got seven in Test matches against England, five on these shores, and they seem to have a rather dramatic effect on England captains. So far he's got rid of two. I don't think he'll get rid of Andrew Strauss - I hope he won't - but put Smith in a position where the spotlight is on him and he seems to rise to the occasion."