In the first of his exclusive iafrica.com columns, former Proteas coach Eric Simons looks ahead to the mouth-watering Test series between Australia and South Africa, which gets underway at the Waca on Wednesday.
It has been said that this is South Africa's best chance of winning in Australia since readmission.
I agree, but it disappoints me that it is more due to them being weakened than our dramatic improvement. This may be our best chance in many years, but we are still a long way from being favourites.
Why are we not favourites?
The biggest concern is our bowling unit. We have POTENTIALLY the most devastating attack in world cricket, but there is some distance to go before we reach that potential.
Our control is a huge concern ? I saw Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel bowl more balls down leg in one Test match against very weak opponents than Shaun Pollock bowled in his entire career. Bangladesh could not punish the wayward bowling but Australia will.
I must, however, commend the selectors for picking specialist in key positions. We can debate whether they have picked the right players but their strategy has been to select what they believe are the best bowlers and not have not tried to fill gaps by giving too much consideration to their batting ability. Bowlers need to take wickets and their runs, while vital, should be seen as a bonus.
To date it has worked well as Paul Harris ? or Morne Morkel, on occasion ? has been able to stick with the top order when the team has been into trouble and help post a good score.
The Australians will target this situation, however. While they don't have McGrath or Warne any more, in their own conditions they remain a formidable attack.
Why can we win?
The current Australian side just does not have the depth, aura and quality since the retirement of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist. You can sense they know it and little cracks of frustration have begun to show. I have never heard an Australian captain consider losing a series before a ball has been bowled, yet Ricky Ponting effectively discussed the possibility when he talked about South Africa not being able to consider themselves as the number one team in the world if we were victorious.
He sounds like a captain that is preparing for a few tough news conferences.
On the our hand, our top seven batsmen have moulded into a solid and reliable unit that has created a habit of scoring big runs ? as individuals and as a unit. They have created a habit of someone playing a great innings when the team has its back to the wall and getting themselves out of trouble.
Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie have become an opening partnership to be reckoned with, although this is the last hurdle Neil McKenzie needs to cross before he has finally cemented himself as an international opening batsman. It will be his toughest challenge and South Africa needs him to be successful ? and he deserves it.
Graeme Smith has matured and developed as a person and as a captain ? his leadership is going to be a key factor in the series. His arm is not right and it must be a concern because we simply cannot afford to lose him ? as a batsman and as a leader.
Steyn and Ntini will be crucial
A lot has been said about Dale Steyn and I believe he is destined to be one of the greats of the game. His bowling is going to be crucial, but I get the impression he is still learning his craft and Australia is a tough place to learn ? particularly when you are carrying the hopes of so many.
What I saw of Makhaya Ntini in the recent Bangladesh series really impressed me though. Throughout his career he has been very one-dimensional, but he seems to have suddenly moved to another level ? when judging his performance against Bangladesh in terms of process, he was particularly impressive.
Makhaya has not been mentioned too much in the build-up to the series, but he could very well be the one that puts us in winning positions against Australia.
Nice to have Eric on board as an iafrica.com columnist? Let us know what you think below, or email Eric firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional comments or questions.