Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day July 18, 2014

SL a tough place to play cricket - Steyn

South Africa have made the heat and humidity sound bigger than the opposition but you only need to look at their desperation to cool down at drinks' breaks to have some understanding

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In spite of Sri Lanka's photogenic sunrises and sunsets, inviting island lifestyle and the hospitality that oozes out of every corner, there is something which can make this place seem like a drag: having to play professional sport here.

"This is a tough place to play cricket," Dale Steyn said.

South Africa have made the heat and humidity sound bigger than the opposition but you only need to look at their desperation to cool down at drinks' breaks to have some understanding.

The umbrellas come out to provide brief respite from the scorching sun. Sri Lanka think they are such a good idea they have started using them too. Then the towels come out. And as many plastic chairs as the reserves can carry to rest tired legs. Today that number was three. When Quinton de Kock did not get a seat, he made do on the lap of the person who did. The litres of energy drink come out and overheated fingers cling on to them as though they contain a miracle juice.

All that can only last five minutes before they have to turn their attention to the real task at hand: tough conditions. Sri Lankan pitches are barren when compared to the parklands South Africa's seamers get at home. They are designed to keep them for as long as needed to defeat them - mentally first, physically second.

"Bowling in the subcontinent is the hardest place to bowl," Steyn said. "Sometimes bowling on a green top is just as hard because you are expected to get wickets but bowling here is tough but I enjoy the challenge." That is also why Steyn enjoys the successes.

Having fun is actually what South Africa's cricketers tend to do on a tour. On their current Sri Lankan visit they have gone on nature walks in Hambantota, had their hair cut at local barber shops which offer every style from Cristiano Ronaldo to Virat Kohli and been and to eat dinner with members of the opposition - Steyn, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy were guests at Thisara Perera's a few days ago.

As they showed in England two years ago - one of their activities included a dress-up party - off-field entertainment often translates to on-field unity, which is what they showed during the one-day series. "Hashim said he just wants us to play with a smile on our face no matter what happens," Steyn said. "We enjoyed playing in the one-day series and we're enjoying it now. We want to play because we love the game. and then afterwards, we will share a powerade or whatever and enjoy each other's success, even if we didn't have any success."

But success is ultimately the way South Africa will be judged, especially as they are under a new captain. Steyn is just one of the players determined to play for his leader and admitted if Sri Lanka had not reached the follow-on target and Amla asked the bowlers to finish the job - which seemed a possibility at one stage - he would have been up for it.

"As a new captain, I think he wants to win. If he had said lets go out there and get them three more down, guys would have been up for it," Steyn said.

South Africa allowed the lower-order to get away after Steyn's post-tea spell, in a period in which Imran Tahir was ineffective and the old ball was persisted with. Despite that, Steyn believes there is enough time left for South Africa to force the result to go their way even though they will bat again because the surface will bring their spinners into play.

"There's still two full days to play. We've got some of the most attacking aggressive batsmen out there - AB, Hashim," he said. "If the wicket keeps deteriorating we should be fine. JP is bowling well, Imran will come into play more and Dean Elgar could even be a factor. And then the quicks always stand a chance of taking wickets with the swing. We know that in the sub-continent, the first couple days are really slow and then day four and day five, play speeds up."

What will make South Africa's task seem even little less arduous is the knowledge that Steyn is fully fit even though he suffered a blow to the same hand which was injured in the ODI series. "I was hit on the finger but it's fine," Steyn confirmed. As fine as Sri Lankan sunset.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent