Durban - The Proteas have a steep mountain to climb when they step onto the pitch and try to win the first of four Tests against Australia.
The national cricket team dug itself into a deep hole on Saturday with its first innings at Kingsmead.
When bad light stopped play, Australia were 213/9.
This reflected the Proteas bowlers’ massive fighting spirit, but did nothing to change the visitors’ 402 run lead.
Opener Cameron Bancroft’s half century helped the visitors stretch their lead.
Regardless of how advantageous the lead was, the hosts will have to set a new record run chase if they are to emerge victorious.
The chase currently stands at 62 runs more than the 340/5 record set by South Africa in 2002.
Given how the home batsmen have performed - and how Mitchell Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled in the first innings - a draw would be a great result for the Proteas.
While some might blame South Africa’s bowlers for the Australians’ huge lead, such an assessment is completely off the mark.
A closer look at the match’s highlights is all that’s needed to realise that the Proteas’ poor performance was a result of the team’s shoddy batting.
Dismissed for 162 on day two - despite AB de Villiers’ rearguard stand of 71 not out - South Africa’s inability to score when De Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis get runs is becoming a real concern.
Opening batsman Aiden Markram continues to make good starts without seeing them through.
His partner Dean Elgar appears to need a crisis to rouse him, while Quinton de Kock’s poor form persists.
In the absence of a functioning batting line-up, the bowlers took on the responsibility of giving the Proteas a fighting chance when it seemed the team had already given up.
With the Kingsmead pitch having hinted as early as day one that a lot of the wickets would come via reverse swing, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj was always going to be a key figure.
But the question was which of the three fast bowlers would shoulder the responsibility of getting wickets with the older ball, especially when you consider how the first innings went.
Kagiso Rabada proved to be that man, taking the pitch’s flatness out of the equation by running in and hitting the deck hard to be rewarded with a 2/28 record.
His performance suggests he is becoming the player to watch.
Maharaj, who had figures of 5/123 in the first innings, picked up where he left off.
He bowled with drift, turn and control to add three more wickets in the second innings.
Then came Morne Morkel’s sting in the tail.
Morkel - who has promised to retire from international cricket at the end of the series - had a subdued test.
He did not pick up any wickets in the first innings and bowled just seven overs before tea.
But when he got back on the pitch, he showed off some of the prowess that characterises his impressive performances.
Morkel bowled out Shaun Marsh, Starc and Lyon in a spell that saw him pick up three wickets in 6.4 overs.
With the conditions forcing Vernon Philander to help reduce the run rate to a trickle, Elgar surprisingly took centre stage by trapping Australia captain Steve Smith lbw.