Soon-to-depart coach Darren Lehmann addressed his players in a huddle before play started as Australia tried to return to the normal business of cricket after a dramatic week in which their captain Steve Smith was banned for a year and Lehmann has said he will quit too after this match.
Tim Paine, who took over as Australian captain after a turbulent week, admitted: “It’s been a really difficult week. We’ve spoken internally and we’ve got a Test match on the line and a chance to level the series.
“It’s been a challenging week for the guys. We’ve spoken about looking after each other and keeping each other up for the contest. It is a privilege to be playing for Australia.”
Australia made four changes for the match at Wanderers Stadium. Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb replaced banned batsmen Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner while fast bowler Chadd Sayers, 30, came in for Mitchell Starc.
Paine said he would have preferred to bat. “It looks like a terrific wicket but there is a little bit of grass.”
“It looks a little different to a normal Wanderers wicket,” said South African captain Faf du Plessis.
“It’s a bit browner and a few cracks are starting to appear. Hopefully by the fourth day the cracks will open up and it starts to go up and down.”
South Africa named an unchanged team after winning the third Test in Cape Town to go 2-1 up in the series.
“Mitchell has been battling some injuries throughout the tour so we’ve decided to give him a rest,” said Paine.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel.
Australia: Tim Paine (captain, wkt), Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Chadd Sayers, Josh Hazlewood.
Umpires: Ian Gould, Nigel Llong (both ENG)
TV umpire: Richard Illingworth (ENG)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)