Can Smith complete trifecta of dominance?
STEVE Smith's Bradman-like heroics in the Ashes took such a heavy toll that he could barely bring himself to look at his cricket bat by the end of the summer.
In last year's other marquee series he also pushed his powers of single-minded determination to their absolute limit when he carried Australia's batting in India.
On both occasions Smith smashed three centuries in Test cricket's two biggest series.
Now the Australian captain hopes he can rise again and complete what would go down as an extraordinary Test match treble by dominating South Africa's much-vaunted pace attack in Durban.
Along with England and India, South Africa are Australia's great Test cricket rivals and Smith wants to continue to define himself by his performances in the big series.
After batting himself to a standstill during an exhausting summer, the challenge of stepping up again to conquer South Africa, on pitches that can play with frightening pace and bounce, shapes as arguably Smith's biggest test.
Explaining his phenomenal achievements against India and England, Smith has spoken of entering an almost trance-like state out in the middle.
Smith admits he won't know until he enters the fray in Durban whether he's back in that zone.
"It's too early to tell yet. I don't know - it sort of just happens out in the middle sometimes," said Smith.
"I really enjoyed the couple of weeks I had off after the one-day series. I needed that.
"I was very drained.
"It got to the point where I actually didn't want to pick my cricket bat up for a bit which is very rare for me - I normally just love batting.
"But it (eventually) got to a point where I wanted to do it again so I think that was the moment where I was refreshed and ready to go.
"I feel like I've been batting well since we've been here. Hopefully I can stand up again and lead the boys and get myself in that zone again to have the success against a great bowling attack."
Against England in the Ashes, Smith averaged a whopping 137 with three tons and two 50s.
In India, he made centuries from the three times he passed 50 and averaged 71.
The unknown is how would the Australian batting line-up cope if not for Smith and David Warner.
Australia had an insight into that abyss when South Africa last visited two summers back and butchered the hosts in Hobart.
The loss goes down as one of the darkest days in Australian cricket and Smith admits the jarring experience so young in his captaincy still burns.
"Yeah that wasn't a great time, it was a bit of a low point for Australian cricket, but I think since then we've made some really good strides and the cricket we've been playing, particularly back home in the Ashes was magnificent," he said.
"Now it's about doing all those things we did well, the basic things, but doing them at another level. If we do that then I'm confident we can have a lot of success on this tour."
The skipper wants young players to announce themselves on this tour.
"Absolutely. There's no doubt it's a tough tour," he said.
"Conditions wise it's as similar as you get to back home but you're still away from home and they're a good team.
"It's a chance where guys can find some confidence that they can play well away from home and hopefully some guys have innings like Shaun (Marsh) at Centurion (back in 2014) and make a name for themselves and give them that confidence they can do it against quality attacks like South Africa."