CAPE TOWN  - Stung by a shock defeat in the second Test in Durban, South Africa will have to overcome a confident Sri Lankan team to gain an elusive series win in the third and final Test starting at Newlands Tuesday.

Unlike the case with Durban, where South Africa have now lost four matches in a row, history is on the home team’s side at Newlands. South Africa have won five of their last seven matches at the ground, although their two most recent New Year Tests — against England and India — were drawn.

After winning the first Test at Centurion by an innings and 81 runs, South Africa seemed set to break a sequence of four successive home series which they have failed to win, especially as the Sri Lankans were written off as a weak side.

Among the critics was former South African captain Kepler Wessels, who suggested before the series that the home selectors could afford to experiment against a side which he believed did not offer adequate opposition. Sri Lankan captain Tillekeratne Dilshan had a tongue-in-cheek dig at Wessels after the 208-run Durban win.

“Thanks to Kepler for motivating the team,” he said. Now it is South Africa who have to prove their credentials in front of their home supporters after a year of moderate results and administrative turmoil regarding unauthorised bonuses paid to chief executive Gerald Majola.

Despite calls for drastic changes, the South African selectors have stuck by the squad originally announced for the Test series and made only two changes. Opening batsman Alviro Petersen has been recalled, with his case bolstered by a century after he was released to play in a domestic first-class match while the second Test was on, while opening bowler Vernon Philander has recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of the Kingsmead Test.

Petersen plays at the expense of Ashwell Prince with Jacques Rudolph dropping down the order after opening in the first two Tests. Despite taking seven for 81 in the first innings in Durban, fast bowling discovery Marchant de Lange makes way for Philander. After their historic win in Durban, which has been acclaimed as one of the country’s greatest Test achievements, Sri Lanka are unlikely to make changes, with almost all their players having made a contribution to the team effort at Kingsmead.

“Everyone has given 100 percent for the team,” Sri Lankan captain Tillekeratne Dilshan said after the Durban win, although he admitted he was keen to improve on his own performances as an opening batsman. He has been dismissed for six, six, 47 and four in the first two Tests. “I want to do a lot of things with my batting, giving a start to the team. I am looking forward to batting in Cape Town. If I can get a start I would like to get a big one.” The turnaround in fortunes was a setback for new South African coach Gary Kirsten, who has yet to replicate in his own country his success with the Indian team.

Kirsten admitted that the South African bowlers, unlike the Sri Lankans, had not bowled a consistent line on one side of the wicket in Durban.

He also said it had been a poor batting display by the home side.