Proteas captain Faf du Plessis says his side could look to entice Australia vice-captain David Warner into making a mistake now that the opener is just one indiscretion away from being suspended for a Test match.
Following the altercation with Quinton de Kock outside the Kingsmead dressing rooms this week, Warner was fined 75 per cent of his match and awarded three demerit points, one point short of an automatic suspension.
Warner was charged with a Level 2 breach of the ICC code of conduct, while a Level 1 offence brings with it at least one demerit point and that would be enough for Warner to be suspended.
Prior to the series, Australia captain Steve Smith said his troops may try to ‘fire up’ Proteas quick Kagiso Rabada, who has already missed one Test through suspension and is at risk of missing two Tests if he cops three more demerit points to his disciplinary record.
Now Warner could be in line for the same treatment from the hosts, says du Plessis.
"I didn’t think of it before the series but I did hear that yesterday and it’s probably being a little bit smart by being like that,” du Plessis said.
"If you can entice someone to make a mistake to get them missing the rest of the series, that’s probably a tactical move.
"But before we came into the series when I looked at all the demerit points, all of it was on the South African team’s side.
"There wasn’t much on the Australian team.
"Now that it’s happened it’s a possible angle we can look to get to."
Warner has since apologised for the stairwell scuffle but said he will not change his on-field behavior despite the looming threat of suspension should he slip up again, while Smith has backed the aggressive style of play that he believes gets the best out his team.
Du Plessis said he isn’t expecting Australia to change their stripes for the second Test in Port Elizabeth, starting on Friday.
"They are a team that’s always done it (sledge) and will always do it," du Plessis said.
"They’re not going to change that overnight.
"They’ve always had characters within their team, and it’s not even the whole team, it’s probably just two or three guys … you could almost see that’s their job in the team, to go that route.
"For me, it will be just to make sure if you have guys in your team that are pushing the line, as a captain, you make sure you can keep them calm and (not) let things get to the stage where they got to in the previous game.
"If the captain is not close by then that role will fall onto the umpires to make sure if they see someone that’s continuously trying to get a reaction out of player.
"I don’t have an issue with chirping at all. I think chirping is good for the game. It’s just what you say is where I suppose we talk about that line."
Both du Plessis and Smith cleared the air in a meeting with match referee Jeff Crowe, the two respective team managers and the umpires on Thursday at St George’s Park.
Both parties and the match officials are said to be keen to put the Durban incident behind them and make sure cricket is the main talking point over the next five days in Port Elizabeth.
"It was nice to just have a chat and just ensure that we’re playing within the spirit of the game and that cricket is what’s written and talked about after this game," Smith said.
"It’s all been about the indiscretions of the last fixture and it’s not what we want from the game.
"Cricket has got to be the winner. It’s about staying in line, continuing to play good, hard cricket.
"There’s nothing wrong with a bit of banter out on the field, just making sure we’re not getting personal, not crossing any lines and we’re just playing the game."
While Smith, Warner and the rest of the Australians will continue to be hostile out on the field, du Plessis said he has not lost any respect for how the tourists play the game.
He said he respects every opponent he comes up against, whom all play a different brand of cricket, and gave special mention to Australia’s Trans-Tasman rivals.
"When you play a team like New Zealand, they’re the nice guys, they’re really friendly and they don’t believe they need to play like that (aggressively)," du Plessis said.
"They get results in the way that they play. Us as a team, very similar.
"Me, as a captain, I don’t see much value in what you say on the field making an impact on the performance that you do have as a team.
"For me, it’s about focusing on what kind of presence you have as a team, what your body language is like, being positive.
"It’s not our style of play but as I said before Australia probably believes that’s the way they are the best team they can be is by being that sort of team."
Qantas tour of South AfricaAustralia XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
South Africa XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (c), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13. Live coverage
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage