Qantas Tour of South Africa
Smith, Proteas at odds over 'personal' sledging
Australia captain denies his side crossed the line but Proteas air conflicting view as fallout continues from stairwell exchange
Sam Ferris at Kingsmead, Durban
5 March 2018, 11:58 PM AEST
In the wake of the staircase incident that has overshadowed Australia's first Test win in Durban, captain Steve Smith denied his players got personal on the field despite claims from the Proteas' camp that both sides crossed the line.
After the fifth day's play wrapped up in less than 20 minutes, captains Steve Smith and Faf du Plessis fronted the media with different versions of what had occurred in the lead up to the altercation outside the players' dressing rooms at tea on day four.
CCTV footage leaked to South African media showed an agitated David Warner being physically restrained from Quinton de Kock as the pair exchanged heated verbal barbs.
While Smith said he wasn't aware of any sledging from his players that got personal, du Plessis said both parties had committed that crime.
And in a bizarre sequence shortly after the Australian captain spoke, South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee told reporters the Australians "most definitely" got personal.
The incident was allegedly sparked by de Kock making derogatory comments about Warner's wife, Candice, which Smith said was crossing the line.
"What was said and done during that interval was regrettable on both sides," Smith told reporters.
"Obviously, Quinton got quite personal and provoked an emotional response from Davey.
"I think those things are not on from both sides. Getting personal on the field is not on, that's crossing the line in my opinion."
Du Plessis said he was unsure who started the incident, but was disappointed the animosity between the teams wasn't left out in the middle.
"All I've heard is there was a lot of personal stuff on the field already, to and from (both sides)," du Plessis said.
"Who started it I don't know. If it was happening on the field it probably should have been nipped in the bud on the field already.
"The fact that it spilled over off the field, that shouldn't have happened."
Smith countered, saying: "We were certainly very chirpy out on the field as well. As far as I'm aware we didn't get personal towards Quinton.
"But look – what he said got a little bit personal towards Davey – and as we saw it certainly provoked an emotional response.
"That's from my opinion – and what I've heard from the guys as well.
"I'm not 100 per cent sure but as far as I'm aware I don't think we got personal."
Former South Africa captain and SuperSport commentator Graeme Smith tweeted to say Warner crossed "many personal boundaries" with the Proteas players and wasn't surprised to see a hostile reaction.
Gilly- Warner crossed many personal boundaries with the South Africans, so we can’t be surprised when there is eventually a reaction. If players are happy to give it,they have to be prepared to take it,too. On both sides! But agreed not a good look. #SAvsAUS https://t.co/obTo0GO2H8— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) March 5, 2018
"I know what I heard in the mics yesterday and some of it was quite close to the boundaries of what should be said," Smith told cricket.com.au in Durban on Monday.
"Play the game hard, play the game competitively.
"Any bit of banter or anything which is in the spirit of the game is good.
"I played the game hard myself. It was part and parcel of how you do it.
"I think there are just certain boundaries that are unnecessary to cross."
Sledging, or "mental disintegration" as former captain Steve Waugh put it, has long been part of the DNA of Australian cricket teams.
At times it has found those in the Baggy Green in hot water, but Steve Smith does not believe there is an ugly stigma attached to the Australians about how they play their cricket.
"I think that's the way we play our best cricket, when we're aggressive, we're in the fight together, we're hunting as a pack and we're working for each other and backing out mates up on the field," Smith said.
"That's part of being an Australian in my opinion.
"I'm comfortable where it's all at, it's just ensuring we stay within the spirit of the game."
Du Plessis said he expected the intense banter on the field coming up against the Australians, and that relations between the two teams has not changed after the incident.
"As I said before the series, every single match that I've played against Australia you expect it," du Plessis said.
"So, I'm certainly not sitting here complaining about it. It's the way we play our cricket against them. We expect it. For me, that's not a surprise.
"Two teams trying to bash it out. Disappointed to see how it unfolded yesterday, but we expect a tough series and we look forward to a battle."
The second Test starts in Port Elizbeth on Friday.
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