Opinion: Proteas need to be Clinical Down Under

Fielder throws cricket ball in

Faf du Plessis' Proteas are expecting a fiery reception in Australia, if only from the fans who turn up to watch their first tour to the country since the ball-tampering incident in March.

Since that fateful day at Newlands, Australia have travelled the world with their proverbial tails between their legs. South Africa have an opportunity to liberally apply the boot to their arch-rivals, but should avoid getting sucked into the nasty stuff.

When he spoke to the media ahead of the team's departure for Australia, du Plessis said that they didn't expect to encounter anything other than aggressive crowds. The Proteas will do well to focus on their own performances, though, on a tour that forms a critical part of their 2019 World Cup plans.

The Proteas are in the process of narrowing down that World Cup group - and there are still one or two spots up for grabs. That should be the focus of this trip. While the banter with fans will give the series some edge, the Proteas would be best served by not engaging and leaving matters to match officials, should the line be crossed.

Much has changed since the sides last met in ODI cricket. In 2016, Australia visited South Africa without their frontline quicks and were massacred 5-0 by a then number one-ranked ODI side.

Australia are, of course, without opener David Warner and former skipper Steve Smith after their involvement in the ball-tampering shenanigans landed the pair 12-month bans from representing the national team. South Africa have had to replace batsman Rilee Rossouw and seamer Kyle Abbott after the pair dropped Kolpak bombshells in 2016. Though he was absent from that series against Australia in 2016, AB de Villiers' retirement has left a massive hole in the Proteas middle-order as well.

The Proteas are still expected to put Australia away in this series because of how poorly the home side have played, but on home soil they will be a tough nut to crack. South Africa are without veteran batsmen JP Duminy and Hashim Amla through injury - and also lost promising all-rounder Wiaan Mulder to a knock during the series against Zimbabwe.

There isn't much to separate the two sides when looking at the top six. Both sides have an explosive opener with a proven track record and both are struggling to fill middle-order berths. The difference maker should be the presence and leadership of du Plessis.

In order for him to make that impact, he needs to be on the park and will want to avoid getting involved in sledging back at fans or any other unnecessary distractions. This goes for all the Proteas, who should be more concerned about securing their World Cup spots than earning banter points against a fierce rival. The other senior players will be expected to step up on this tour, in particular David Miller and Farhaan Behardien, who will be the tourists' finishers.

Miller and Behardien need to ensure that they don't leave the all-rounders with too much to do with the bat, should the top four give way early on. Both have shown ability in this regard, but have not found consistency at international level.

This tour is too important in the grander scheme to allow it to descend into another ugly Australia v South Africa incident, particularly for du Plessis' men.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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