Chappell: Smith’s men show Proteas who’s boss
AUSTRALIA hasn't lost a series in South Africa since the Proteas were re-admitted to international cricket in 1991.
The early signs are that Steve Smith's team - growing ever more confident - will maintain that imposing record.
In the first Test at Durban on a drowsy pitch, Australia immediately established a few important advantages over a hesitant South African side.
Australia's bowling, with the left-arm of Mitchell Starc leading the way, were superior in pace and variety to their South African counterparts.
Although both batting line-up's display flaws, Australia's is more aggressive and the more likely to post a demanding total.
Three hundred and fifty is a significant figure when a team features an extremely strong attack - as Australia does - as that score will win far more matches than it loses.
If that total is also posted in reasonably quick time it gives Australia's potent attack ample opportunity to claim the twenty wickets vital for victory.
The other noticeable aspect of the early skirmishes was the increased confidence Smith has in his rapidly improving off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
It's only a couple of seasons back that Smith occasionally treated his off-spinner rather harshly.
That was a thing of the past as he tossed the ball to Lyon in only the eighth over and his confidence was immediately rewarded with another brilliant caught and bowled ambush by the off-spinner.
It's crucial to get that first wicket early in a highly competitive Test match and the fact that Smith has a variety of ways to clinch the breakthrough is a huge advantage.
This also highlighted another crucial difference between the two teams; Australia's plans for each opposition batsman revolve purely around methods of dismissal.
South Africa on the other hand - like every other opponent - is relying heavily on containing Smith as part of their plan to limit his prodigious scoring.
South Africa's fallback plan for Smith involves bowling wide of off stump. This may slow his scoring but it doesn't frustrate the Australian run machine and it greatly reduces the number of ways he's likely to be dismissed.
It was also evident that the South African batsmen may have been suffering from the after effects of Faf du Plessis' ill-advised plea to local curators to prepare spicy pitches for the recently completed series against India.
It's challenging enough to tackle a high quality Australian attack in your best form without having to do it on the back of moderate scores on difficult pitches.
The one exception was AB de Villiers who showed he's in a different class to his teammates and will be the scalp the Australians treasure as the series evolves.
South Africa's bowling was for the most part steady and typically attritional in it's thought process.
South Africa are quick to resort to testing the opposition batsmen's patience when they don't claim their wicket quickly. This works well against lesser quality opposition but against players who put a high value on their wicket it can lead to conceding the authority in a game.