JOHANNESBURG, February 17 – Australia captain Ricky Ponting said on Monday the pressure was on South Africa ahead of the three-Test series beginning next week.
"After winning the recent series in Australia, South Africa go into this one as favourites," Ponting told a media conference when the team arrived at OR Tambo airport from Sydney.
"There will be high expectations from their home crowds and South Africa will have to deal with that. If we get off to a great start, things could turn against them pretty quickly."
South Africa completed a historic double in Australia last month, winning the Test series 2-1, and the one-day internationals 4-1 despite the absence of injured skipper Graeme Smith.
"I think we can compare these Tests with the 2005 Ashes when we lost in England. They arrived in Australia for the return series as favourites, but did not live up to expectations and could not handle the pressure.
"Being number one in the world is also very important to us because every sportsman aims to be the best in the world. Even though we have been number one for some time, we always train as if we were number two," said Ponting.
The skipper said Australia had been through a demanding time with a tour to India followed by Test series against New Zealand and South Africa and a host of ODIs.
Among the Australian luggage was the International Cricket Council Test championship trophy, which will be presented to the winners of the Test series.
Also at stake is 175,000 dollars which goes to the Test nation ranked number one in the world on April 1 with Australia clinging to top spot after winning the final Test in the recent series.
"The trophy is important, but we play to win matches for our country. Winning this series would mean more to us than retaining the trophy," added Ponting.
Australia will be based in the tranquil university town of Potchefstroom west of Johannesburg and play South Africa A there from Friday in a three-day warm-up game.
Wanderers in Johannesburg hosts the first Test from February 26 with traditinal venues Kingsmead in Durban and Newlands in Cape Town staging the others.
The tour follows a similar format to the South African visit to Australia with the Tests followed by two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals.