Confident Proteas look to do an encore in Australia
Skipper Graeme Smith thinks South Africa's Test series win in Australia four years ago was a key step on their rise to the number one ranking and another good showing over the next month could be just as important.
The 2-1 series win in 2008-09 was a first for the Proteas in nine trips to Australia and although they immediately lost a home series to the men in baggy green caps by the same margin, they have barely looked back since.
Unbeaten in a series since that second encounter with the Australians four years ago, the South Africans are certainly not lacking in confidence ahead of a three Tests in what has traditionally been one of the more difficult countries to tour.
"Winning here four years ago, you arrive here knowing it's something you've done before, it certainly helps in the self-belief factor, knowing that you've overcome a hurdle before," Smith said on Monday."I think the achievements the team have put together over the last few years, including the England tour just gone by, we obviously arrive here with a self-belief that we can perform well."
Image: Graeme Smith
'We are very focused on the immediate challenge'
A 2-0 series win in England in August put South Africa to the top of the rankings but they will need to keep winning to retain their lofty position, starting with next week's first Test in Brisbane, where they have not played in 49 years.
"We understand that this is a big challenge for us coming to Australia again to win and we realise there are a few unknowns," Smith said.
"A Gabba Test is something we haven't really experienced... and we need to maximise our preparations and come together as a team quickly and understand what it's going take to be successful here.
"We are very focused on the immediate challenge and we believe that if we perform well here, it will be a stepping stone to hopefully having the opportunity to retain that number one status."The previous tour triumph was achieved under Mickey Arthur, who will now be plotting the downfall of the South Africans in his role as Australia coach.
Image: South Africa's captain Graeme Smith with teammates
'The Mickey factor is something we've dealt with before'
Smith said that contrary to some media reports, he had no falling out with his former coach but equally he was not losing any sleep thinking about his influence on the series.
"The Mickey factor is something we've dealt with before in South African cricket so it's not something that's stressed us out at all," Smith said.
"We are very much on good terms, I spoke to him a few weeks ago and he told me all the Australian secrets," he added, to laughter.
The Proteas begin their tour with a three-day match against Australia A at the Sydney Cricket Ground starting on Friday, before Tests at the Gabba (November 9-13), Adelaide Oval (November 22-26) and the WACA in Perth (November 30-December 4).
The South Africans have not lost an away series since going down 2-0 in Sri Lanka in 2006 and have no intention of giving up that record in Australia.
"I certainly think it's a challenge that we look forward to," Smith added.
"Winning in someone else's back yard is a tough thing to do and I think that challenge is something that excites us."
Image: Mickey Arthur
Photographs: Getty Images