Graeme Smith came to Australia with a young team and bright hopes. He finished the Test series with a 2-0 loss, but was boosted by a number of strong performances that should benefit South Africa when they face the same opponents in March.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,but...Andre Nel shunned racist taunts from the crowd to turn the heat on Australia's batsmen © Getty Images

Andre Nel
Targeted by the crowds and the object of racist taunts, he set the bullseye on Australia's batsmen and was an intimidating presence with 14 wickets. With an attacking mindset, he turned on his best spell in the first innings at Melbourne with four dismissals on Boxing Day, and followed up strongly in Sydney.

Herschelle Gibbs
Promoted to No. 3, he made regular and bright contributions. His 94 came at the MCG when he weathered a fierce onslaught from Brett Lee, but his best display was a 74-ball 67 at Sydney as he tried to grab South Africa a formidable total. Finished with 251 runs at 41.83 and can expect a long stint in his new position.

Shaun Pollock
Main job was opening bowling support, which he did well, but he was also extremely useful with the bat, scoring 182 runs at 45.50. A 34 at Perth, 67 not out in Melbourne and a double of 46 and 26 at Sydney showed his worth before his eight wickets were taken into account. His career is slowing down, but he is still productive.

Jacques Kallis
Missed the first Test with an elbow problem, struggled facing Brett Lee at Melbourne and was hampered by the injury in making a patient and crucial 111 in the first innings at Sydney. Added a slow, unbeaten half-century in the second knock as the Proteas contemplated their declaration and ended with an average of 61.33. Bowling was useful without being damaging and they needed him at Perth.

Ashwell Prince
A satisfying 119 in the third Test was the highlight of his career and a generous reward for his hard work in the earlier stages of the series. Was troubled by Shane Warne, who got him out in the first five innings, but showed his value as a middle-order batsman against tough opponents. Leaves with his reputation enhanced.

Makhaya Ntini
South Africa's strike bowler missed the third Test with a knee injury that restricted his bowling in the second innings at the MCG. It was a disappointing problem as he caused Australia regular trouble, taking 5 for 64 in the first innings at Perth and finishing the series with nine wickets at 29.33.

Jacques Rudolph
Scored a brilliant rear-guard 102 to save the match at Perth after replacing Kallis. His century came late on the final day as he calmly diffused the threats of Warne, McGrath, Lee and Co, but he could add only 67 runs for the rest of the series.

Mark Boucher
Gave South Africa some lower-order push with the bat and could have been promoted at couple of stages. The highlight was his double of 62 and 13 in the first Test and his keeping was also sound.

AB de Villiers
Made two fine half-centuries in the opening innings at Perth and Melbourne with a well-paced 68 followed by a 61. However, he posted only 23 runs in his four other attempts and his young career will benefit from the tough tour.

A poor series with the bat did not stop Graeme Smith from mouthing it back to Australia © Getty Images

Graeme Smith
Worked hard to get starts in five of six innings but could not reach 40. Promoted his team and threw barbs at the Australians without turning his big talk into big runs, although a poor lbw decision in the second innings of the final Test didn't help. His captaincy was often regimented, but he managed to surprise and upset the Australians. However, his final-day declaration was a positive move that backfired badly.

Charl Langeveldt
Had a mixed series, starting in Perth where his 1 for 100 in 17 overs was replaced with three wickets in the second innings. Dropped for Melbourne, he returned for the final Test and picked up Justin Langer twice, the second time to a superb inswinger that knocked back middle stump.

2.5 Justin Kemp
Helped salvage a draw with Rudolph at Perth, but his 166-ball 55 was his last performance in the series as he missed the next two games with a shoulder injury.

Johan Botha
Flown in for the SCG Test, he picked up Michael Hussey with an overspinner and collected 1 for 26 off seven overs in the first innings. Suffered in the second, giving up 77 in 12.3 overs, and picked up Matthew Hayden.

Nicky Boje
Overlooked for the first Test and replaced on the spin-friendly SCG by Botha. It was easy to see why after figures of 0 for 59 and 0 for 65 at Melbourne.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo