Pretoria – Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin insists South Africa are favourites for their three-Test series starting in Centurion on Wednesday.
The Proteas have maintained their number one ranking since midway through 2012, which was no fluke according to Haddin.
“I think South Africa are number one in the world for a reason. They've played consistent cricket over a long period of time,” Haddin said at SuperSport Park on Monday.
“ That's why they're number one in the world Ä they've won at home and away. They deserve the tag of favourites.
“It will be a big challenge for us - to test yourself away from home against clearly the number one team in the world.”
Despite bad weather affecting their preparations in Potchefstroom last week, the Aussie camp was ready for the first Test, he said.
“Our preparations have been fine. Obviously we had a bit of bad weather in Potch, but the facilities we've had here 1/8in Centurion 3/8 over the last week have been outstanding.
“We were also lucky enough to get the centre wicket at the Wanderers and have a good hit-out against our own bowlers, which was uncomfortable at times, but it was a good test.
“From that point of view we've prepared as well as we could.”
While their dominant 5-0 victory over England in Australia boosted the side's confidence, the real litmus test would be against South Africa, said Haddin.
“We're pretty comfortable with where we are as a team. Time will tell by the end of the series.
“We want to test this group of players against the best in the world, and we've got no better opportunity than in the next three Tests.”
While the Proteas would miss the services of retired all-rounder Jacques Kallis, Haddin was confident the hosts would cope without him.
“I think South Africa has a very high-class batting line-up ... obviously weakened without Kallis.
“You can probably argue he's one of the best players to play this game.
“It's going to be a big loss. There's a lot of class players in that top six, but they'll feel it.”
Haddin said he had not paid much attention to the condition of the Centurion wicket, as it could still change before the start of the match.
“I personally try not to take too much notice of the pitch a couple days out from the start. It can play with your head sometimes.
“It changes quite a lot over 24 hours. I think traditionally this has been a pretty good wicket with good bounce and carry. It suits the bowlers, but also the batters once they get in. It opens up the game for some free scoring.” – Sapa