South Africa captain Dean Elgar on Friday said his team was “salivating” at the prospect of facing Australia and conceded there could be feisty moments in their first Test series since the “Sandpaper-gate” scandal.
The two sides pad up on Saturday in Brisbane for the first time since the infamous 2018 cheating row in which Australia attempted to alter the ball using sandpaper in Cape Town.
It kicks-off the first of a three-Test series, with the hosts boasting an enviable record at the Gabba, losing just once since 1988, against India in 2021.
But South Africa have rarely played at the fortress ground and it holds few fears for Elgar’s men.
“We don’t have any dirty laundry when it comes to playing at the Gabba because we haven’t played here yet,” he said.
“The history here is not in our favour, and that’s OK. The fact we haven’t had any failures here might work in our favour.
“We’ve been here for two weeks and have been salivating for this moment. We’re looking forward to getting going.”
Shadows of “Sandpaper-gate” inevitably hang over the Test, with two of the main culprits, Steve Smith and David Warner, both playing for Australia.
Elgar said his team hadn’t spoken about the incident and insisted there were no grudges.
“There will be moments no doubt when there will be a few feisty encounters, hopefully it doesn’t reach the stage we experienced in 2018,” he said.
“There’s no grudges, but we want to win, they want to win, there will always be a moment when ego and heat of the moment gets to the guys. But I think it will be better controlled.”
The tourists have one of the most hostile pace attacks in world cricket, spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, and Elgar admitted bowling “is our strength” with their batters struggling recently.
But he suggested he could make Australia field first if he won the toss.
“Generally I think in Australia you want to bat first as runs on the board is massive, but we won’t make a decision just yet,” he said, adding that they had settled on a starting side but would only reveal it on Saturday.
“All the batters have to stand up. It’s been a bit of a talking point that’s been surrounding our batting unit of late, I’ve never shied away from that.
“It’s time for the guys to rise up, it’s time for me personally to put my hand up and make a massive play for us,” he added.
“But in saying that, we have a really talented group, they’re just a bit inexperienced when it comes to Test cricket. But that’s OK, they don’t have a lot of baggage.”
Australia skipper Pat Cummins said he will be fit to play after missing the second West Indies Test last week with a thigh strain, but Josh Hazlewood remains injured.
That means Scott Boland is set to retain his place in an attack featuring Cummins, Mitchell Starc, allrounder Cameron Green and spinner Nathan Lyon.
In addition to the shadow of “Sandpaper-gate”, Warner’s batting form is also under the microscope.
Cummins though has no concerns about the veteran opener.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” he said of the 36-year-old.
“Opening the batting’s not easy so I’m backing him for a big series. He’s hitting the ball beautifully.”