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Australia's plan to dampen fiery Rabada

South Africa firebrand has already missed one Test because of suspension and enters the Australia series one serious incident away from another

Australia captain Steve Smith has hinted his troops will look to "fire up" South Africa spearhead Kagiso Rabada knowing the speedster is just one serious incident away from a two-Test suspension.

Rabada has already missed one Test match due to suspension – against England at Trent Bridge last year – and was fined 15 per cent of his match fee and given one demerit point for his send-off of India opener Shikhar Dhawan in this month's fifth ODI at Port Elizabeth.

The 22-year-old now has five demerit points in total and should he earn three more he will be suspended for up to two Test matches having reached eight points inside a 24-month period.

No player in the history of Test cricket with at least 120 wickets has a strike rate lower than Rabada, who captures a wicket every 39.7 deliveries, so it comes as no surprise that the Australians have looked at every possible avenue to try and blunt the express paceman's impact on the series.

"It could perhaps be a plan to try and get him fired up," Smith told cricket.com.au last week in Johannesburg.

"You never know what some guys do when they're fired up.

"He's obviously a quality bowler and a big player for them.

"You don't want to see guys getting suspended or anything like that, you want to come up against the best, but you never know."

Intense rivalry set to resume in South Africa

Rabada's demerit point problems started 12 months ago when he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points for coming into avoidable contact with Sri Lanka batsman Niroshan Dickwella during a one-day international in Cape Town.

Five months later he was fined and given one demerit point for giving England allrounder Ben Stokes a send-off involving inappropriate language that could be heard over the stump microphones.

Rabada outburst lands bowler one-Test ban

That brought his overall tally to four points and triggered an automatic suspension for one Test, which South Africa won in Nottingham, but the send-off of Dhawan at Newlands less than a fortnight ago has him within one more incident like the Dickwella run-in from missing more matches.

"He's a fiery character so we'll just play it as we see it," Australia coach Darren Lehmann told cricket.com.au on Sunday when asked if his players would look to target Rabada.

Lehmann looks ahead to Proteas series

"At the end of the day, we've got to play him better than we did in Australia a couple of years ago (where Rabada captured 15 wickets in the 2-1 series win to South Africa).

"He's a quality bowler, so for us to get on top of him it's going to be key to how we play in the series."

Rabada is not the only player in the series with demerit points on his record.

Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis was handed three demerit points after he was judged to be shining the ball with saliva containing residue from a mint in his mouth during the second Test in Hobart in November 2016, while Australia gloveman Tim Paine was given one point for making inappropriate comments towards Dickwella in a T20 international in Geelong 12 months ago.

If the 2014 series in South Africa is anything to go by, there's every chance of fireworks over the next six weeks.

In that series four years ago, which Australia won 2-1 on the thrilling final day in Cape Town, there were heated exchanges between Michael Clarke and Dale Steyn, du Plessis likened the Australians to a "pack of dogs" in the field, while David Warner was fined 15 per cent of his match fee for intimating wicketkeeper AB de Villiers was roughing up one side of the ball with his gloves in the dramatic second Test in Port Elizabeth.

Harris's epic inside tale of 2014 Cape Town decider

Lehmann was at the helm in 2014 and expects the same fierce yet respectful rivalry to return, starting in Durban on Thursday.

"They'll keep coming at us, we'll keep coming at them and it's going to be a great, hard-fought series," Lehmann said.

"Both teams get on really well and the way it was played in Australia (in 2016) was the same it was four years ago here.

"I expect nothing different, no-one's going to ask for anything, they're just going to get on with the game of cricket and may the best team wins."

Qantas Tour of South Africa

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.

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.

Warm-up match v South Africa A | Australia won by five wickets

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3