Warner and Johnson a class apart
Out cheaply in his first innings of the series, Warner carried all before him thereafter, passing 50 in five subsequent knocks and producing the performance of his career at Newlands. Glittering centuries in each innings were the major reason Australia had - just - enough time to close out victory, underlining Warner's destructive capacity as a key plank of the team's recent success. A personal victory over Morne Morkel was particularly influential, while his hyperactive, abrasive way with words epitomised the rascal spirit of his team.
If his Ashes act was impossible to follow, Johnson did not fall far short. In fact his display at Centurion was the peak of his summer if not career, setting a new mark for terrorising batsmen even though they knew fully well what to expect after his treatment of England. Johnson struggled for similar effect on a dull wicket in Port Elizabeth but regathered himself strongly for the third at Newlands, and coped with a staggering workload on the final day while retaining high pace.
Growing with every innings, Smith is now being widely spoken of as a leader-in-waiting as well as one of the game's most sparkling young talents. As against England, he made first-innings runs a habit, notching substantial scores in each, most critically at Centurion in a big partnership with Shaun Marsh. The variety of his innings was also notable, from the aforementioned hundred to bolder efforts at Newlands when rapid scoring was needed. His leg breaks do not always land where he wants them to, but the one that dismissed Faf du Plessis on the final day of the series was his most important of all.
Indifferent over the first two Tests, heroic in the last. Harris could easily have been ruled out of this tour entirely in order to have knee surgery, but pushed on and overcame self-doubt as much as physical impediments at Newlands. Harris' 100th Test wicket made him the first fast bowler to manage the feat having debuted past the age of 30, and a case can now be made that pound-for-pound, he would be a match for any pace bowler Australia has ever produced.
Clarke began the series in charge of a powerful and confident team but out of form with the bat and faced by an opponent without peer in the world. He ended it having played what may become known as his defining innings, led his team with typical invention and toppled a team unbeaten since 2009. His slim scores in the first two Tests were troubling, but now only serve to enhance the memory of Cape Town, a stubborn refusal to yield to Morkel and the century that subsequently grew into 161 not out. He is close to achieving his goal of taking the Test team to No. 1.
Having acknowledged South Africa would be his most difficult assignment of all, Rogers stood up to the challenge, contributing more to Australia's success than his series tally indicated. Two century stands with Warner and another beyond 50 gave the tourists a solid foundation, while his hundred in Port Elizabeth served as a lesson to all about dealing with reverse swing and a ravenous home attack. He will be wanted for the 2015 Ashes if he can maintain the knack for run-making.
In three out of four innings, Lyon is the best conventional finger spinner in the world. His flexible role within the Australian attack has allowed Clarke to both attack and defend with him, while numerous partnerships were broken by his spin over the first two Tests. However his struggles in the final innings, most pointedly at Newlands, will remain a major issue until he can find a way to work over batsmen intent on defence. H will have a major role to play during Australia's next Test assignment, against Pakistan in Dubai.
There is no doubt Doolan has the poise and technique to be a Test No. 3, proving it with his 89 at Centurion and a pair of other strong starts. All he lacked at times in South Africa was a willingness to take the initiative, and a belief that he is good enough to do so. Australia are intent on persisting with him, seeing in Doolan the elegance and composure of the Queenslander Martin Love. But he will need to find a way to be more assertive to succeed.
It always seemed likely that Haddin's river of Ashes runs would dry up, as his bold methods are susceptible to low scores if a decent share of luck does not fall his way. However, he still kept wicket wonderfully, and his snare of Dean Elgar in the first innings at Newlands was the equal of any in his career. A trusted lieutenant of Clarke, Haddin dearly wants to be part of a winning World Cup team in 2015, and will carry on with similar drive in Tests.
Hampered by injury and missing the first two Tests, Watson returned to play a vital balancing role in the decider, offering Clarke an extra bowling option while resolving to bat fearlessly at No. 6. It is a post that should suit Watson in the later years of his career, and there were enough signs of promise at Newlands to raise expectations of more to come.
Drafted in for the third Test after intensive training work alongside the bowling coach Craig McDermott, Pattinson added the "velocity" wanted by Darren Lehmann and struck telling blows in each innings, none more than Hashim Amla on the fourth evening. He was largely accurate, gaining reverse swing and maintaining the high pace that marks him as a future leader of the attack. One regrettable beamer amid an ill-tempered final day at Newlands provided a reminder that he must learn to ensure his aggression remains keenly focused.
One stellar Test match, one horrid one, and one sitting on the sidelines. Marsh played the innings that set up Australia's series in Centurion, but a pair in Port Elizabeth had him dropped for Newlands. The feast and famine narrative was in keeping with Marsh's career, but the class he exhibits at his best will ensure he is a part of Lehmann's plans for some time yet.
Perhaps the only troubling element of Australia's series was Siddle's continued fade in terms of pace and impact. Though he still delivered persevering spells and made the odd important breakthrough, notably to support Johnson at Centurion, his decline from fast towards medium was enough of an issue for the selectors to drop him from the final match. He nonetheless remains highly valued and will be given the chance to push for his return after time away regathering his strength and, hopefully, his speed.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here