Proteas out to end Aussie jinxComment on this story
Cape Town - South Africa's dramatic 231-run victory over Australia in the second Test set up an enticing decider at Newlands which could see the hosts seal a first home series win over the tourists in 44 years.
After their humiliating 281-run defeat in the first Test, the Proteas were written off, supposedly running scared of Mitchell Johnson, carrying too many batsmen out of form and looking clueless under the leadership of Graeme Smith.
But if South Africa have proved anything on their way to the number one ranking in Test cricket, which they have held for 18 months, it is that when they are pushed into the corner they are street-wise enough to battle back.
Now the large carrot of a home series win against Australia has been dangled, something the South Africans have not achieved since Ali Bacher's 1970 side, including the likes of Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Mike Procter, thumped Bill Lawry's team 4-0.
It was another 24 years before Australia visited again due to South Africa's isolation from international sport but the tourists have won four of the six series since and two were drawn.
One thing high on Smith's wishlist before he retires is to beat Australia in a home Test series, although he has twice led winning teams Down Under since 2008.
Having beaten India at home in December, it would also cement South Africa's status as the world's leading side.
The pitch is likely to be a 'result' wicket, with recent domestic four-day games seeing low scores and the ball zipping about.
Both sides have plenty of thinking to do over their team selection for the game which starts on Saturday.
Australia will have concerns over Shaun Marsh, who picked up a pair in Port Elizabeth and now has six ducks in his last 11 Test innings.
A fit-again Shane Watson would likely replace him, though team management have said they will only select the all-rounder if he can bowl. If not, they may be tempted to give Phil Hughes another chance.
They are unlikely to change the bowling attack, although Ryan Harris looked ineffective in Port Elizabeth, especially in the second innings in which he was carted for 74 runs in 13 overs and did not pick up a wicket.
For South Africa, they must decide whether to bring opener Alviro Petersen back into team after he dropped out of the second Test through illness.
He could replace 21-year-old Quinton de Kock, a move which would see Dean Elgar drop to number six.
Wayne Parnell will not recover from his groin strain in time to play, with fast-bowler Kyle Abbott brought into the squad as a replacement. Other options include all-rounder Ryan McLaren or spinner Robin Peterson. – Reuters