South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day February 14, 2014

'Be prepared to get hurt' - de Villiers

AB de Villiers acknowledged it takes more than just sound technique to face Mitchell Johnson with success, it also requires a lot of heart.

"You can't show weakness," he said. "You've got to be prepared to get hurt. Once you don't have that fear of getting hurt, you can play him. Most of the time you get yourself out. He doesn't really bowl you a peach of a delivery, you get yourself out."

De Villiers was the only South Africa batsman who had some measure of Johnson, whose short ball and searing speeds proved too much for the rest. Even though de Villiers also wore one - on the forearm late on the second day - he reminded himself of the basics he needed to apply against Johnson.

"He came hard at all of us. He is an x-factor bowler, like Russell [Domingo] said. I just watched the ball, tried to move quite early and just trusted my instincts from there on there on," he said. "If you're lackadaisical, you are going to get hurt."

What helped de Villiers is that he also faced Johnson when the ball was older and he said as soon as that happens, conditions become easier for run scoring. "I felt comfortable from 35 overs onward."

With that knowledge, de Villiers has a plan for how South Africa can attempt to save the game in the second dig. "Once we get through the new ball, we should find it easier. If we bat well enough we may even get two new balls, so we will have to get through that as well. If we can do that, we can fight back."

Despite the fighting talk, de Villiers admitted South Africa are staring down the barrel, but suggested the hosts have not quite had the rub of the green. "It felt like anything that came off the glove when they were in the field went to hand," he said. "I can't count the times some of their batsmen were hit the gloves and hands and it went over slip. When one team has got confidence, things seem to happen a lot easier for them; the bowlers look more skilful. That's the situation we are in now.

"We're in a bit of trouble obviously. Australia have dominated for pretty much the whole Test match, which is disappointing. But we're not going to give up. There is only one team playing this Test match at the moment. But giving up doesn't exist for us. We know the declaration can't be too far away. We know what we are up against it."

South Africa will draw inspiration from the 148 overs they batted out in Adelaide in November 2012 and the 136 at the Wanderers last year, even though they will probably need to see out more here on a different surface. While Adelaide was flat and the Wanderers got better as the match went on, the Centurion strip has already showed signs of inconsistent bounce, which will have Johnson drooling, and its cracks are opening up.

However, if South Africa are nervous de Villiers didn't show it. "Everything that hit a crack today missed the bat by a long way so that's good for us," he said. "The bounce is the dangerous part. With the cracks, it was just that one or two kicked up. If we can overcome that, we could come close to an upset or saving this Test match."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent