South Africa have had two nights to acclimatise and get over any jetlag since arriving in Australia, but opener Aiden Markram admitted they were still a little rusty and, perhaps, a little lacking in intensity after their four-wicket defeat to Prime Minister's XI in Canberra.

"We got here two nights ago, so I don't think it's too much of an excuse," Markram said. "We had an optional training session yesterday and guys have had the chance to rest up and find their feet here. The timezone is a little different than ours, but I don't think it's the reason behind us not delivering the goods today. We were a touch rusty and maybe not at the right intensity level, so we'll turn it up a notch going into the first ODI."

Markram and David Miller were the only two South Africans in the top order to have any real impact with the bat, both narrowly missing out on half-centuries. They had staged something of a recovery before Markram picked out deep square leg and Miller lofted to long-on. South Africa had Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada to thank for stretching their total beyond 150.

"It's nice to spend a little bit of time out in the middle," Markram said. "As a batter, it's never enough runs. And in that sort of situation of the game, it would have been ideal for me to kick on and drag the partnership on with Dave [Miller]. Not entirely happy about getting out, but looking back at it, happy to have spent a little bit of time out there."

South Africa had been rocked by left-arm quick Jason Behrendorff, who removed Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks in his first over and then had Faf du Plessis caught by George Bailey for just 13. "He swung the ball this afternoon at the start, and he has got a ball that goes across the right-hander which makes it incredibly challenging," Markram said of Behrendorff, who played two T20Is against India last year but is yet to make his ODI debut. "We've known of him for a while. We've watched him in the Big Bash and those sorts of tournaments. He keeps doing the right things. He's a good bowler."

While South Africa struggled with the bat, all of their frontline bowlers struck at least once with the ball and when Imran Tahir held onto a return chance from Sam Heazlett, the match was in the balance at 87 for 5.

"It's always good to see Dale [Steyn] swinging the ball at a good speed," Markram said. "Positive sign for us. I've got no doubt he'll lead our young attack and make it nice and exciting. With the ball, we were there and we were always asking good questions. And it's important to be able to do that for 50 overs. On the bowling side, we were decent tonight."

South Africa play their first match against an Australia on Sunday, and will be up against a team who have won just one ODI this year. While the opposition might be in the doldrums, Markram insisted that there was still a sense of excitement and intensity around an international fixture against them.

"It's extremely exciting. An ODI series against Australia will lift the intensity levels, it will lift the excitement levels, and generally, it brings out performances and guys putting their hands up. We're looking forward to that. I don't think there's an easy game in international cricket, and especially not against Australia. We're going to have to be on it come the first ODI and be at the right intensity level to deliver the goods."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town