All the challenges that touring sides face at the start of the Australian season are set to confront Michael Clarke’s men in South Africa.
The pitch has bounce, the fans are vocal, the ground has an intimidating record and the opposition has an incredible pace attack.
The Test series that starts on Wednesday may well be the closest Michael Clarke’s men get to recreating the feeling that grips touring sides when they trot onto the Gabba for the start of the Australian cricket season.
South Africa have won 14 of 18 Tests at Centurion, the venue for the three-Test series opener, a record that makes Australia’s 34 victories from 56 Tests in Brisbane look relatively mediocre.
At least the nature of the Centurion pitch should provide some level of comfort to Australia.
“Australian players are brought up on fast, bouncy wickets. So in that regard you hope we can adapt a lot quicker than say when you go to India,” Clarke said.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who has only played at the Gabba once due to the Proteas’ tendency to tour later in summer, is happy the visitors are starting their tour in Centurion.
“It’s always nice to come to familiar places where you’ve had success, either as an individual or as a team,” Smith said.
“You walk into that environment and you feel past memories and things you’ve been able to create.”
Australia will hope for fewer top-order collapses and more first-innings runs during this tour, but Clarke admits it won’t be easy against a side like South Africa.
“It’s going to be a really good challenge for the Australian batters to come up against probably the best bowlers that I have faced in my career,” he said.
The two skippers, speaking at the pre-match press conference, agreed the similarities between the two sides are striking.
“South Africa throughout my career has always been as tough a team as I’ve ever played against,” Clarke said.
“We have a wonderful relationship and respect off the field, but you’ll see some hard-fought cricket on the park.”
There will also be no shortage of taunts and banter from the outer, as is the case in Australia.
“They were very vocal, very abusive. It was always good, enjoyable stuff,” Australia bowling coach Craig McDermott recalled of his 1994 tour to the republic.
“And that’s part and parcel of cricket. Plenty of players come to Australia and cop a chop full, whether it be Richard Hadlee or Stuart Broad.”
The Test series starts at 7.30pm AEDT on Wednesday.