Australia have called up three fast bowlers to their squad for the deciding third test in Perth, as Michael Clarke's side count the physical and mental cost of their sapping draw in Adelaide.
With fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus facing a race against time to recover by Friday and James Pattinson now out for the summer, Australia have brought Mitchell Johnson back from the wilderness to bolster the stocks for his home Test at the WACA.
Young NSW left-armer Mitchell Starc is set to replace Pattinson (side strain), while the uncapped John Hastings and Josh Hazlewood will join Johnson as cover for Siddle and Hilfenhaus - who bowled more than 117 overs between them in Adelaide.
Siddle (4-65) looked completely broken at the death as he struggled to get through the final overs.
Man-of-the-match Faf du Plessis (110no) scored one of the finest centuries made by a debutant to lead South Africa through a marathon nine hours and 148 overs at the crease to be 8-267 and deny Australia victory in a thrilling second test which went right to the wire on day five.
Australia can usurp the Proteas as the No 1 test team with victory in Perth.
But first they must pick themselves up off the canvas both physically and emotionally and possibly with a significantly weakened bowling attack.
"Hilfy and Sids have had a really heavy workload of bowling a hell of a lot in the last couple of weeks in both test matches. I think we need that option once we get to Perth to see how the boys pull up," said Clarke, who also announced the return of vice-captain Shane Watson at the expense of Rob Quiney.
"(Johnson) has been bowling really well in Shield cricket and in conditions he loves up in Perth, where he's had a lot of success, he'll be doing everything in his power to try and get an opportunity.
"They're all very handy fast bowlers to be taking to Perth with Siddle and Hilfenhaus."
But the mental toll threatens to be just as tough to overcome.
Australia smashed 482 runs on the opening day and then set the Proteas a world record fourth innings chase of 430 - but still missed a golden chance to take a stranglehold on the series and move one step closer to returning to the rankings summit.
"It's a great example of how much of a fight test cricket is," said Clarke.
"Nothing is a given in this game ... and it's even harder against the No.1 team in the world.
"I'm confident we'll be in a good place come day one of this crucial Perth Test match."
Only three times in history have teams held on for more overs than South Africa to earn a draw.
AB de Villiers (33 from 245) and injured veteran Jacques Kallis (46) stuck by du Plessis for vital half-century partnerships to make Clarke (230), David Warner (119) and Mike Hussey's (103) day one heroics null and void.
First innings centurion Graeme Smith said it was excruciating watching du Plessis and ultimately Morne Morkel (8no) save South Africa - with fieldsmen surrounding and sledging the batsmen all day.
Smith said his team must also freshen up before Perth, with Kallis (hamstring) in doubt.
"I think both teams will be pretty battered and bruised after this game ... but we're level pegging going into Perth," he said.
"And that is what we were fighting for, we wanted to go to Perth in that position and give ourselves a chance of doing something special and winning another series here in Australia."