Proteas playing for pride
New-look hosts have plenty to prove in Cape Town
By Graeme Mair. Last Updated: 18/03/09 3:10pm
Kallis: leadership test
South Africa head into the final Test against Australia in Cape Town looking to arrest a dramatic slump in form.
Watch day one from Cape Town live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30am (GMT) on Thursday
"We've got to keep worrying about what we're doing. We can't really afford to concentrate on our opponents."
Michael Hussey Quotes of the week
The Proteas' fall from grace in such a short space of time has been spectacular - they began the series fresh from beating Australia in their own backyard and with hopes of wresting the world number one ranking from their rivals.
But the home bowlers wasted the opportunity to take control in juicy conditions on the opening day of the first Test at the Wanderers and have since been dominated to the extent they arrive at Newlands in disarray with the series already lost.
Skipper Graeme Smith is absent after having his hand smashed up by Mitchell Johnson for the second time in four months during the second-Test defeat and the selectors have responded to adversity by making some controversial decisions.
Ashwell Prince returns for the first time since last November but will not, as originally announced, captain the side after turning down the offer. Instead, experienced all-rounder Jacques Kallis will be in charge on his home ground.
"I think he had his reasons and his views why he didn't want it," Kallis said.
"Obviously he was offered it first and he turned it down and then they phoned me and asked me if I would do it for one Test match.
"There's no issue there. I've had a chat with him and there's no problem. The guys respect his point of view and the fact that I've taken over as captain."
If that u-turn revealed a sense of uncertainty in the home camp, the proposed batting order raises further eyebrows.
Prince is to open, something he has never done before in a Test, alongside debutant Imraan Khan.
Neil McKenzie, who averaged 47.11 and has been an ever-present since his recall at the start of 2008, has been dropped - a ruthless way to treat a player who was integral to series wins in England and Australia during the past 12 months.
More understandably, the axe has also fallen on young paceman Morne Morkel after some inconsistent displays.
It is, however, not all bad news in the Morkel family - Morne's likely replacement is his uncapped older brother Albie, a big-hitting all-rounder hitherto pigeonholed as a limited-overs specialist.
Wayne Parnell, a 19-year-old left-arm seamer, is also included in the squad but is likely to carry the drinks.
Michael Hussey has told his Australia team-mates to focus on their own performance as they look to clinch a series whitewash.
The resurgent tourists triumphed handsomely in the opening two Tests and are confident of closing out a 3-0 win.
The build-up to the finale has been largely overshadowed by South Africa's selection problems but Hussey is keen for Australia to focus on themselves.
"From my point of view, and our team's point of view, I don't think we really try to focus on them too much," he said.
"We'll do our strong preparation on their new players coming in and make sure we have good plans against them.
"But I think we're still developing our team and our team culture. We've got to keep worrying about what we're doing. We can't really afford to concentrate on our opponents.
"We're a young group, still trying to develop our own way and our own culture.
"So it's important that we keep the momentum going our way and keep putting in place the key things we want to take forward leading into the next Test series."
Australia are likely to stick with an unchanged team for the third straight match, provided seamer Peter Siddle overcomes a foot injury.
The Newlands wicket is expected to offer turn and therefore 36-year-old leg-spinner Bryce McGain, a former IT specialist, is in contention to become his country's oldest debutant since Bob Holland in 1984.
If McGain plays it will most probably be at the expense of fellow Victorian Andrew McDonald.
South Africa (from): J Kallis (capt), H Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, M Boucher (wkt), P Harris, I Khan, A Morkel, D Steyn, M Ntini, W Parnell, A Prince
Australia (from): R Ponting (capt), M Clarke, S Katich, B Geeves, B Haddin (wkt), B Hilfenhaus, N Hauritz, M Hussey, P Hughes, M Johnson, S Magoffin, A McDonald, B McGain, M North, P Siddle