Proteas, fans will be out for revenge

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It promises to be one of the most heated cricket series in modern memory and Australia are prepared for a rough ride starting on Friday at the Wanderers.

It promises to be one of the most heated cricket series in modern memory and Australia are prepared for a rough ride starting on Friday at the Wanderers.

Ricky Ponting's team arrived on Monday in South Africa where memories of the treatment meted out by Australian fans to the Proteas players on their recent tour, including racial abuse, are still vivid.

Some South Africans are spoiling for revenge.

"I say give 'em hell!!! The Aussie public give our lads hell. I say let's do the same here," said a message on SuperSport website's messageboard.

"Not stoop to their level but just stick it to 'em any way we can and make sure they feel there is a 12th man on the field at all times."

Series between Australia and South Africa often approach boiling point, not least because both teams have traditionally adopted an approach that includes aggressive posturing and a steady verbal onslaught.

The bad blood between them stretches back to Australia's tour to South Africa in 1993-94 when Merv Hughes waved his bat at an abusive spectator as he left the field after being dismissed in the first test at the Wanderers.

On South Africa's tour to Australia in 1997-98, captain Hansie Cronje was accused of ball-tampering after being captured on television standing on the ball while wearing a spiked boot.

On the same tour Mark Waugh was given not out after he lost his balance and hit his wicket on his way to an undefeated 115 in the third test that helped Australia draw the match and win the series.

Cronje put a stump through the door to the umpires' changing room after the match, and many South Africans remain bitter about the Waugh incident.

This time the atmosphere has been inflamed by comments by South African Mark Boucher in the British edition of Wisden Cricketer magazine shortly before Australia arrived.

"I hope our public give them a bit of stick, because we've taken a serious amount," Boucher said in the interview.

"In the past our crowds haven't been too great with them, but, trust me, we're not going to sit back and say, 'shame, poor things'."

South Africa lost the test series 2-0 to the world champions and were eliminated in the round-robin phase of a one-day triangular series also involving Sri Lanka.

Former South African captain Kepler Wessels warned players against escalating the rhetoric.

"If players and officials in other sporting codes were to get involved in something like this they would have been in trouble, that would be termed inciting the crowd," Wessels told Reuters on Tuesday.

Ponting says there is no dislike between the two teams and he is confident that will continue in the three-test series, which follows five one-day internationals.

"You expect to take flak anywhere in the world and abuse will be there, but I don't think it will be untoward," said vice-captain Adam Gilchrist.

"There's a lot more spoken about what happens on the field than what actually happens on the field."

No other country's teams enrage South Africans as much as those who represent Australia.

The competitive nature of both nations sees to that, as does the fact that many South Africans have moved to Australia after bemoaning their country's high crime rate and employment trends that emphasise racially based affirmative action.

New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team are revered here, and England's win in a test series in South Africa for the first time in 40 years in January 2005 was grudgingly accepted as a fair result.

But it is common for supposedly neutral South Africans to support whoever Australia are playing, and in whatever sport.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Gerald Majola has tried to lower the temperature ahead of the first game between the sides on Friday, a Twenty20 match.

"We want to show that you can support your nation fully and vocally without resorting to racially abusing your opponents as happened to the South African team in Australia," a CSA release quoted Majola as saying.

"Our icons are people like Nelson Mandela, who believe in building the rainbow nation by bringing people together through sport."

Australian team manager John Buchanan said special measures to protect his players were unnecessary.

"Management has just reiterated the same approaches, nothing more than normal, for incidents both on and off the field," Buchanan told a news conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"Our record over the last while has been pretty well exemplary, with just the odd incident, and we hope to leave the tour unscathed.

"Obviously a lot has been said about the stupid incidents in Australia, but I don't think anything drastic will happen here."

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