If the visitors win the Headingley Test they will dethrone England as the top-ranked Test team.
Headingley: South Africa will dethrone England as the top-ranked Test side if they beat the hosts at Headingley in the second Test starting on Thursday when the tourists' bowling coach Allan Donald says his side will try to land a knockout blow.
"There's no way we are going to sit back and wait for things to happen," Donald said. "We know what's coming our way and we know England will throw everything at us. We take nothing for granted. We've won a Test match but we haven't won the series."
Donald's determination was echoed by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers. "We know they are going to come out harder," de Villiers said. "We sometimes put too much emphasis on it, it's a matter of just going out and playing the same kind of cricket that we played in the first Test match."
England spinner Graeme Swann acknowledged his side's poor recent form. "I can't deny the fact that since we've been No.1 we've got a dismal record," he said. "Whether that goes hand in hand with being No.1 I don't really know, you need someone more qualified with the workings of the human mind.
"We're not doing anything differently," Swann added. "Perhaps that's it, perhaps we're not evolving quickly enough. Perhaps teams are hunting us down more, seeing us as a real threat now rather than maybe underestimating us before, I don't know."
The South Africans beat England by an innings and 12 runs in the first Test at The Oval last week to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Given the epic scale of the tourists' win— South Africa's ascension might look like a foregone conclusion.
Yet one of the most revealing moments in the match came when South Africa captain Graeme Smith spoke about his 131 at the end of day three, an innings that lasted 367 balls.
It might have looked easy to the casual observer, but Smith looked more like a man who had just finished an ironman triathlon than a cricketer, pointing out that Swann had continually spun the ball past his bat.
The word "attrition" was repeatedly used and Hashim Amla spoke in similar terms after his 311 not out on day four, describing his approach as "scrapping for a run".
South Africa's top order provided some of the most impressive batting seen in England in years, its quality only enhanced by the standard of the bowling attack Amla, Smith and Jacques Kallis — who made 182 not out — had to face.
Donald said it was a performance "you may never see again" and while it might seem absurd to say that a team that spent 13 hours in the field and took just two wickets bowled well, it was the batting that caused England's downfall.
The walls at The Oval are plastered with platitudes and above the entrance to the indoor training facilities is a quote from the Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky: "I miss 100 percent of the shots I don't take."
This is perhaps the worst possible thing to put into the mind of a batsman trying to save a Test match.
Faced with the task of batting four sessions, all but two of England's batsmen fell attempting shots they should never have risked.
The exceptions were Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott — who made 115 and 71, respectively, in the first innings.
On their second trips to the crease both were undone by the excellence of the bowlers, but the other specialists all contributed to their own downfall — most glaringly Kevin Pietersen, who came out playing his "natural game" and was bowled for 16, having already been dropped.
Ravi Bopara's place was at risk even before he withdrew from the squad citing personal reasons, so given the selectors' reluctance to alter the balance of the side Nottinghamshire's James Taylor is expected to replace him.
South Africa's only real concern is the lack of Test practice for some of their batsmen.
"To be honest I didn't even have my pads on," JP Duminy said of the win at The Oval. "I didn't even have my whites on. That's the first time for me that's ever happened."
Faf du Plessis has been called up to the squad as cover for Albie Morkel, who picked up an ankle injury.
Du Plessis will be on standby as an extra batsman in the lead-up to the second Test and will join up with his South Africa A teammates in Ireland if he is not required for the match.