Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith is hopeful of the return of crowds at stadiums when his countrymen play hosts to Australia in the forthcoming home summer.
Smith, now Director of Cricket for CSA, is optimistic the Australians will be visiting the rainbow nation in a safe environment despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reportedly claimed nearly 21,000 lives and infected over 7,65,000 people in the country.
The cricketing set-up has also had to deal with an administrative turmoil even as the national side awaits series against England and Sri Lanka, apart from the Australians.
"We’re kind of looking at the Australian series, hopefully if all goes well with COVID, to have some crowds back in the stadiums. There’ll be way more excitement around that than anything else," Smith told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The tour will see the Australians play Test cricket in South Africa for the first time since the 2018 trip marred by talks around the ill-fated ball-tampering incident in Cape Town.
And though a detailed itinerary for the upcoming series slotted in the January-February window of the FTP is yet not out, Smith allayed fears of poor crowd response towards the visiting Aussies and said Newlands will definitely be hosting one match.
"You can control it to the best of your ability. There’s not a place in the world where there hasn’t been a fan chirping or having a crack," he said.
"That’s part of playing sport at the highest level in opposition countries. We’ll try our best to marshall it. I think South African fans will be grateful to have a quality team like Australia playing."
"It’s been one of those crazy periods where things we’ve gotten used to have been taken away from us," Smith added.
Australian players, especially Steve Smith and David Warner, were subjected to verbal abuse at grounds when they stepped in South Africa earlier this year for a limited-overs series.
The short trip, however, went ahead without any ugly incident as the CSA chief executive Jacques Faul pleaded with local fans to maintain their decency.
Smith and Warner were handed one-year bans for their leading role in asking Cameron Bancroft to try and alter the condition of the ball in play with a sandpaper hidden in his pant.
The visuals of Bancroft caught in the act shocked the entire world. In response, the ICC banned the trio for the last Test in Johannesburg. Cricket Australia (CA) later extended the layoff to 12 months in Warner and Smith's case, and 9 months for Bancroft.
(Inputs from PTI)