Centurion: South Africa entered their Test series against Australia as undisputed world champions in the five-day form of the game.
Dale Steyn (left), Graeme Smith and Faf Du Plessis (right) leave the field at the end of play after Day Three of the first Test. Pic/Getty Images
But the crushing nature of their 281-run defeat in the first Test at SuperSport Park has raised the possibility that their era of dominance may be coming to an end.
Irrespective of the result of the current three-Test series South Africa will remain on top of the International Cricket Council rankings - but they will need to raise their game in order to be regarded as champions in more than name only.
Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson was the destroyer with match figures of 12 for 127. Johnson not only blasted through South Africa's top order batting in both innings, he intimidated the hosts with fast, hostile short-pitched bowling. Hashim Amla and Ryan McLaren both took sickening blows on their helmets.
Australian captain Michael Clarke had no doubt that it was a performance that would have been noticed around the cricketing world. "I don't know what South Africa are feeling at the moment," said Clarke.
"I do know there is not one cricket lover around the world that doesn't know that Mitchell Johnson is bowling at 150ks and executing his skills better than any other bowler in the world." But Clarke was wary of claiming that his team had dominance in the series.
He insisted that South Africa had been tough opponents at Centurion — although there was not much evidence to back up his view — and said he expected Graeme Smith's team to come out fighting in the second Test which starts in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.