Faf du Plessis knows he'll be up against a cricket nation, across the next month, that is struggling on and off the field. Ahead of their departure for what has always been a stern challenge in the subcontinent, the South African captain has said that he expects tough conditions in Sri Lanka.
In a press conference ahead of the tour, Faf has come out and expressed, "I am expecting tough conditions, I think Sri Lanka will look at it on paper and think we've got a better side on paper and I think they will try and make it as dry as possible and spin as much as possible."
South Africa have not played Tests in the subcontinent since their tour to India in late 2015, where they were defeated 3-0, losing an away series for the first time in nine years and also the No.1 Test ranking, and it is that tour and the lessons learnt while batting against the might of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on dry turners, Faf says, will come to good use here.
He said, "It will be a nice opportunity to test ourselves in tough conditions. There were a lot of lessons learnt by us [in India]. You have to go through something like that to pick your game apart, start from scratch and look at how you get better."
South Africa will be bereft of their best batsman Ab de Villiers for this tour, as the great man announced his retirement from the game recently but Faf reiterated, his team was always prepared for life beyond one of nation's greatest.
Du Plessis pointed out to the almost two-year-long sabbatical de Villiers took between January 2016 and December 2017 and said, "AB has only played the last one or two series for this Test team, so he has actually not been playing for a while, It will be a nice opportunity for Temba [Bavuma] or somebody else to put his peg in the ground and make the position his own again."
For the first time in a long time, South Africa have selected a Test squad that has an almost equal proportion of spinners as their fast bowling resources but Faf made it clear that irrespective of the conditions, it is the fast bowlers who will be their biggest strength.
He said, "No matter what the conditions are, a big strength of our team will always be our fast bowlers, especially the personnel we have; [Dale] Steyn, Kagiso [Rabada] and Vernon [Philander] are all wicket-taking bowlers. Those three have proven they can do it in any conditions. Dale has got a fantastic record in the subcontinent and KG [Rabada] is gold. He will be able to do anything, and we've got Keshav [Maharaj], If we want to and there's an opportunity to, because the conditions are really bad, then we can look at a second spinner."
The first Test of the 2-match vigil starts on 12th July.
(Inputs from ESPNcricinfo)