The teams' mutual respect for each other's aggressive approach to the game is plentiful in the build-up to Wednesday's start at Newlands, but it's South Africa's lack of match practice that might prove the difference between the fierce rivals and give No. 4-ranked Australia -- under new captain Michael Clarke -- the edge over their higher-ranked host.
Now coached by Gary Kirsten, South Africa are No. 2 behind England in the Test rankings after India's post-Kirsten slide, but the Proteas have done little to prove they deserve that position having not played a Test since a drawn series with the Indians ended in Cape Town 10 months ago.
South Africa's players haven't just been quiet on the international front, either.
Captain Graeme Smith, leading batsman Jacques Kallis, vice captain AB de Villiers, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher and main strike bowler Dale Steyn haven't played any long-format cricket -- at any level -- since the New Year Test against India.
Australia are ready to pounce in the matches in Cape Town and Johannesburg to try and continue an awesome record in South Africa, where the Baggy Greens have not lost a Test series since 1969-70. Impressively, Australia have won four and drawn one of the five contests here since South Africa's readmission into international cricket. They've won the last four.
Australia opened a new chapter under Clarke -- and moved on from their Ashes grilling by England -- with a series win in Sri Lanka in September. The tourists also came through a stern workout in a four-day game against South Africa's 'A' team last week, which they won by seven wickets on a testing pitch in Potchefstroom.
'Definitely getting some first-class cricket under your belt is beneficial coming into a Test match, no question about that,' said Michael Hussey, Australia's middle-order mainstay. 'We can definitely have that as an advantage, no question.
'I think they'll (South Africa) be coming out firing and they'll be fresh and playing pretty hard cricket. But I guess, hopefully, us having played quite a bit of cricket, we'll be able to maintain our intensity for long periods.'
Australia would aim to take advantage again, former skipper Ricky Ponting said, after winning the recent one-day series over a South African team with players clearly short of match practice and trying to catch up quickly.
'One of the things we felt might have been on our side in the one-day series was that we'd played a bit of cricket and the South Africans were coming off a long break,' Ponting said on Monday.
Ponting added the shortened two-Test series against the Proteas would still give Australia 'a much clearer picture of where we're at as a Test team.'
Starting to show signs of revival after the Ashes disaster, Australia's only temptation to deviate from the combination in Sri Lanka is likely to be whether to give rapidly rising teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins his Test debut at Newlands, following swiftly on from the 18-year-old speedster's international bow at the same ground just three weeks ago.
South Africa's evolving line-up in former player Kirsten's first Test in charge could include Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir and Cape Town-based seam bowler Vernon Philander, who are yet to play Test cricket. It will include opening batsman Jacques Rudolph, who hasn't played Tests since 2006 but was recalled straight to the team after a five-year sabbatical in English county cricket.
De Villiers also missed the limited-overs series against Australia with injury and has not appeared in any international cricket this season, adding to the Proteas' already tough Test to ensure a rested team has not become a rusty one.
But contests between these opponents are hotly contested and often characterized more by mental toughness and will to win than just pre-game form, or runs or overs under the belt.
It adds an unpredictable edge to their meetings, proven perfectly last time they met in Tests in 2008-09. South Africa recorded an historic series win in a three-match set in Australia, only to go down by the same 2-1 score just three months later at home.
'It's not about the pretty cover drive,' South Africa batsman Ashwell Prince said of South Africa-Australia series. 'You're not going to get many chances to hit a pretty cover drive that's for sure. It's definitely a mental battle.
'They like to play the game aggressively, whether they are batting or bowling ... it's Test cricket, there's no place to hide, and that's what it's all about.'
Hussey and Ponting both agreed there was something extra when these teams played and little counted in the build-up once the first ball was bowled.
'Can't really put my finger on it myself, really,' Hussey said. 'We always know it's going to be very, very tough cricket and that's what we look forward to. It's what we get up for, knowing it's going to be a challenge.
'We haven't really looked at it as having momentum going into the Test series. The new preparations started at Potch (Potchefstroom). New players, different mindset. I think we start at nil-all and we go from there.'
Teams -- South Africa (from):Graeme Smith (capt), Jacques Rudolph, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher (wkt), Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Paul Harris, Imran Tahir
Australia (from): Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin (wkt), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Usman Khawaja, Trent Copeland, Michael Beer, Patrick Cummins.