Flip toward the back pages of any of the six billion copies of the New Testament in circulation around the world and the tale of destruction on horseback can be found.

Riding in with bows and swords, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse acted as harbingers of judgement, bringing death, famine, war and conquest in the name of the almighty.

Collectively, these riders had a cause. One aimed at eliminating heathens by combining the sum of their parts. Independently, they had their roles, tailored to their character and designed to produce devastating results.

The individual personalities and purposes of these horsemen were represented by the different colours of their cloaks and steeds, with an order of white, red, black and a menacing grey all galloping into the field of battle.

On the field of play, we have seen these jockeys come clad in cream, too.

At the height of Kerry Packer's cricket war, the West Indies forged a pace attack that would scar batsmen for the next six summers. From Antigua, Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica, the ilk of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Joel Garner and Michael Holding combined, creating cricket's version of the biblical 'death ride'.

'The Hitman', 'The Smiling Assassin', 'Big Bird' and 'Whispering Death'. They were all there. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. A stable of individual talents brought together to wreak havoc on opponents in any conditions.

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Though recent Caribbean cartels have proven tame in comparison to these doyens of pace and pain, the baton was passed across borders, and their roles replaced in the nightmares of batsmen.

In the wake of this era of Windies domination, Australia regained its mantle as the king of the quicks, rolling messers McGrath, McDermott, Hughes, Gillespie, Lee, Johnson, Siddle, Starc, Cummins, and Hazlewood off the tried and true production line.

With lightning wickets, oppressive heat, and trampoline bounce available at home, even the most technically proficient of international batsmen have failed at the hands of these ruthless quicks.

But with a kindred ethos fashioned in similar conditions, these Aussies have routinely met their match from a side wearing almost identical caps.

Same, same but different

Since rejoining the sporting world, South Africa's sprawling metropolises and savannahs have proven rich breeding grounds for pace bowlers.

While warp-speed lightning bolts from Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Dale Steyn tested the competency of speed guns on home soil, the era-bridging foursome also established a reputation for getting it done Down Under.

After whitewashing the West Indies over the course of the past fortnight, Australia consolidated their status atop the World Test Championship rankings - even without the services of Cummins and Hazlewood for the second Test in Adelaide.

Still, the fire and brimstone approach of those wearing baggy green caps has come unstuck when met with a mirrored fervour, as evidenced by the Proteas' ability to win each of their past three Test series on Australian shores.

Sitting just two wins in arrears of the Aussies - six months out from the WTC Final at The Oval - to claim South Africa's three-Test series on Australia's eastern seaboard is anything less than pivotal would be to peddle mistruths on Charles Ponzi's level.

However, if the victorious deeds of Graham Smith and Faf du Plessis' sides are to be replicated, the Proteas' latest stable of quicks must muster their own apocalyptic death ride once the new ball is in hand.

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Though recent history suggests that South African sides have seen Australian venues as happy hunting grounds, it is worth considering that no member of Dean Elgar's touring team has played any form of red-ball cricket at the Gabba, MCG or SCG.

Yet, as the conditions that will face his XI remain a perfect match to those found at home, the expectations before Elgar and his men remain lofty, even before a ball has been bowled.

Having carved six wins and fallen to four losses in Tests this calendar year, the Proteas have proven that when on song, their side is unplayable. However, when the chips are down, too much is left to too few.

Drawn series results against India at home and New Zealand away revealed South Africa's Jekyll and Hyde nature, an inconsistency born out of incompetence with the bat, and a contrasting fluency with the ball.

Entering this weekend's Brisbane fixture, none of South Africa's travelling squad holds a Test batting average above 40, with Elgar himself leading the line at 38.80.

His vice-captain, Temba Bavuma, may hold an average score of 65 runs across the past two years (career average: 34.36), but with the 32-year-old battling elbow soreness and just a solitary Test century to his name in 87 innings, the task ahead of the stubby right-hander appears mammoth from the outset.

With the Kookaburra in hand, Elgar has been served admirably by a chopped and changed bowling unit that ekes everything out of themselves.

At present, South Africa's joint bowling average of 24.94 is the second lowest in Test cricket. But it is their strike rate where they really shine, with the unit's collective figure of 46.70 the strongest of any nation across the last two calendar years.

Put simply, if the likes of Sarel Erwee, Russie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Bavuma and Elgar all flop with the bat, the role of meeting expectations will - again - fall on the capable shoulders of Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, and the everpresent Kagiso Rabada.

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Quick bowlers will always play a role in Australia, and with four varied options all fit at the same time, a genuine contest is sure to be waged against Australia's brigade of brilliant bats.

Admittedly, the task of leading the line is a heavy burden for this recently assembled cartel, but as shown on the sole occasion they were able to sing in unison, the outcome can be ominous for their opponents.

Bursting bubbles, betting big

As Ben Stokes' XI swashbuckle their way through Pakistan, ringing up daring wins at will, the hubbub surrounding England's 'Bazball' tactics have grown from a rippling murmur to a deafening roar.

Anyone with an active pulse sat enthralled as final-day victories were secured after scoring at a click better than much of what was on offer during the recent T20 World Cup.

But as demonstrated by one attack across three days in August, this gambit of playing white-ball cricket when wearing whites isn't without risk.

Although evidence of this bowling unit can be traced back through scorecards marked over several summers, South Africa's opening Test against England at Lord's represented the first - and so far, only - occasion Jansen, Ngidi, Nortje and Rabada had combined forces.

For the sum total of 214 runs scored over a pair of innings covering just 82.4 overs, these four fledgling horsemen claimed all 20 of England's poles at an equitable spread.

While batting woes saw the Proteas falter at Old Trafford and The Oval, each of Jansen, Nortje and Rabada ended the recent series with sub-25 averages and strike rates capped below 32.

Some may see this ability to burst the 'Bazball' bubble as little more than a blip, however, others closer to the camp saw the one-sided result as foreshadowing.

Speaking in the wake of his successors' resounding win at the home of cricket, Allan Donald was happy to stoke the flames ahead of a defining Australian tour.

"Someone asked me if they are the greatest pace quartet in history and I would say, without a doubt, they are up there," the once-blistering speedster spoke into existence.

No pressure then.

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Ever since Scotsman Andy Gray bizarrely questioned the brilliance of legendary Argentine footballer, Lionel Messi, a tongue-in-cheek question has rolled off the tongues of football fans across the globe.

Upon witnessing a precise pass, a jinking run or a goal good enough to have the architect running wide-eyed and topless towards the corner flag, a certain sect of supporters are no longer inclined to join in the wonder, instead opting to frivolously deride.

"Yeah, sure, it was a great goal," these pantomime pundits admit.

"But, can he do it on a cold night in Stoke?"

Although routinely rattled off in jest, the pause for effect holds weight when Donald's praise is placed under the microscope. Sure, cutting the ilk of Root, Bairstow and Stokes down at Lord's is fine and all, but can the South Africans do it with an old ball at the Gabba?

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While internally hailed as the globe's benchmark for success, Australia's wider cricketing family has long been beset by a collective ill.

For all of Australia's glory, entrenched myopia found throughout its cricketing circles has led many to snicker and scoff as those in green and gold unblushingly beat their chests.

Still, despite differing time zones, currencies, languages and lineages, the South African standard of betting well before the horse bolts is a move that even the most shortsighted Australian will notice in their own repertoire.

So, before the pitch in Brisbane is unveiled, take a tour behind the stable door, cross-check your form and acquaint yourself with the thoroughbreds primed to pip the local runners at the post.

War, conquest, death and famine

Following a sound four-day hitout over the weekend against a competitive Cricket Australia XI in Brisbane, Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt spoke openly of his expectations for the series ahead.

While Elgar's first-innings ton will have pleased him, and Verreynne's back-to-back scores of 80-plus will have given him mirth, the former seamer's smile was borne out of another complete performance by his bowling attack.

In Rabada, Langeveldt has his general; a pillar he can turn to who will produce time and again without question. However, for his stable to run any chance of success on a Gabba green top, its strength, Langeveldt claimed, would come from the alternative reins before him.

Horses for courses, as it were.

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On the pages of the Book of Revelations, the first horseman into battle is said to bring war.

In Langeveldt's arsenal, his first steed does the same, with the signs of combat coming in the form of a familiar foe to those wearing baggy greens.

While a handful for any opponent, Kagiso Rabada has saved his strongest performances for the Australians, testing the form, technique and temper of many of the world's most resolute hitters.

Across the course of his past duels with those led by Ponting, Clarke, Smith and Paine, the genuine quick has claimed 38 wickets at a strike rate of 39.30 and a staggering average of 20.50.

Boil these numbers down further, and the 27-year-old has kept his bar high on Australian shores, eking his average out to a still brilliant 22.40 across his three Tests Down Under - a figure that sees him sit above both Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.

Still standing at the peak of his powers, the Gauteng giant holds the best strike rate of any living cricketer to have collected a minimum of 100 Test wickets.

For perspective, Rabada's career marker of 40.20 collated across his 55 Tests is only bettered by England's George Lohmann, and the Middlesex man has been pushing up daisies for the past 120 years.

Capable of clocking deliveries at the precipice of 150kmph, Rabada's greatest threat has also developed into his calling card. One that has grated the Australians due to its familiarity.

Throughout Australia's spiteful 2018 tour of South Africa, not only was Rabada happy to dish up his best, taking a series-leading 23 wickets but the chance to force-feed his guests a taste of their own medicine was also snapped up with glee.

So often abrasive in their pursuit of victory, Rabada bit back at the brilliance of David Warner and Steve Smith, sending them packing with condemning roars just days before the pair made their acrimonious exits out of Africa.

In a formal sense, a war horse is one of might, one who can be trusted on the frontline.

Informally, the noun can be bestowed upon politicians, soldiers, or even athletes that have repetitively entered the fray themselves.

With so many notches on his belt already - 257 to be exact - the latter befits Rabada down to the ground. And, given his reticence to ever take a backward step, a case for the former fitting can also be mounted.

South Africa's attack may well be fronted by a fired-up Rabada, but the ceiling is held up by the Brobdingnagian reach of the two-metre-tall, 22-year-old, Marco Jansen.

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On the face of things, Rabada and Jansen could not be more opposed.

Aside from any obvious differences, Jansen's relaxed manner could never be mirrored by Rabada, even if the new ball was traded for a piña colada.

Beneath the surface, these contrasts continue, with Jansen publicly labelling himself an introvert - a far cry from Rabada, who has picked up more breach notices than the gentle giant has had braais.

Comparisons, though, are a cricket junkies' currency, and with his obvious height and pace, lines can be drawn between the ambidextrous all-rounder and the class of Garner, Steyn and Lance Klusener.

Still, with his orbital release point and chanceless skill of producing swing from his left hand, present stars in Kyle Jamieson and Starc sit closer on the palate swatch.

Statistically, parallels can be found between the youngster and his talisman. Like Rabada, Jansen has entered the international arena with a bang, collecting 37 wickets at 19.15 across just seven Test appearances.

As the foal in Langeveldt's menagerie, Jansen will be hopeful of continuing in Rabada's slipstream by stamping his distinctive brand in Australia at the first time of asking.

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Routinely keeping the speed gun busy, it is little wonder why Anrich Nortje was once dubbed as "extremely exciting" by Dale Steyn.

Although the eldest member of this Protea's pace attack, the 29-year-old has only turned out in 15 Tests so far, still time enough to collect 57 scalps at 27.5.

Like all express pacemen, Nortje hasn't wavered when sending balls down at batsmen's toes and nose - often above the 150kph mark. Still, it has been injuries sustained rather than dealt that have arrested Nortje's red-ball development.

Ankle surgery in 2018 was quickly followed by a shoulder operation and a broken thumb over the next 12 months. A noxious hip injury also saw the Warriors quick miss each of South Africa's fixtures against India, New Zealand, and Bangladesh this year.

Yet, after returning to the roster for the Proteas' tour of England, Nortje picked up where he left off, claiming 10 wickets at 24.8 with a strike rate of 31.8.

Nortje's ability to produce swing, bounce and threatening angles in the air or off the seam is sure to see him win plaudits on his first Australia series. After all, the locals tend to begrudgingly respect tourists that take it up to them, even if they ultimately succeed.

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Originally seen as a white-ball specialist, Lungi Ngidi broke through for a debut Test cap against India during summer of 2018.

Since this inaugural date against the touring Indians, the Northerns quick has mimicked his opening partner Rabada by collecting wickets at pace, 49 in all, at a staggering average of 21.6.

However, after meeting KL Rahul's men at home again in January, the speed wobbles showed up and the stayer was vetted. Despite acquiring 15 wickets at an even average of 15 against a stacked Indian lineup, Ngidi took no part in South Africa's tour of New Zealand, or the home Tests with Bangladesh, with illness and a back injury to blame for the layoff.

While his teammates tore through the English order at Lord's, Ngidi finished the history-making Test with just a single wicket to his name. Further struggles in Manchester saw him dropped for the Third Test in London, leaving him without a first-class appearance since November.

Prior to touching down in Australia, Elgar opted to cajole rather than condemn the 26-year-old, backing his man to be in the running once again when the whips are cracking.

“He's a professional guy, he knows where he's at, at the moment, and he'll be working hard," the skipper said of the second half of his new ball attack.

"I'm pretty confident that Lungi will bounce back, you can see he's not played a lot of cricket of late, especially the longer format which is quite demanding. Time in the legs is something that you can't replace."

Honey over vinegar proved the antidote as Ngidi picked up four wickets at Allan Border Field last weekend, including the crucial top-order scalps of Bryce Street, Tim Ward, Sam Whiteman, and Peter Handscomb.

But can he do it with an old ball at the Gabba?

Empty pockets, empty program

Tours of Australia have always offered those involved a chance to make a name for themselves. And for a bowling unit already hailed as "up there" with the best, this gilded opportunity is one that cannot be squandered.

Not with such a grim future lying in wait.

With South African cricket's controlling board so often flying by the seat of their pants, navigating scandal upon scandal with little more than lint in their pockets, a long overdue investment has been made to solidify the future of the game in the Rainbow Nation.

However, the blueprints contain sparse concern for the health of red-ball cricket.

By welcoming the advances of Indian investors to gut their domestic T20 competition, rendering it as little more than an 'IPL Lite', Cricket South Africa may have secured the sugar daddy that will help keep the wolves from their door.

But the fix has come at a cost.

Following their trip Down Under, South Africa is scheduled to play just 30 Tests in four years to March of 2027, with only one home series scheduled against Australia, and none as tourists.

South Africa's sponsorless Test whites act as a depressing symbol of where the Rands are running; a visible reminder that fat cats with grand plans - and short attention spans - have marked their territory elsewhere.

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One supposes an argument for white-ball investment is timely given the recent T20 embarrassment against the Dutch in Adelaide, but with a quartet of Test stayers all champing at the bit, CSA's choice to chase quick bucks rather than buck quick trends may bite them instead.

Occasion, opposition, the past, and a future on the fringe have created the perfect storm for what may well be a perfect series. And if the Future Test Program has told us anything, it will have to be, as South Africa's quicks are not set to face another top-three nation again until December of next year.

In Donald's eyes, the Proteas may have assembled the greatest stable of fast bowlers since Colin Croft could limbo, but if the shackles stay on, does it even matter?

Akin to the biblical horsemen, this story runs the risk of becoming a fairytale if these thoroughbreds can only visit the mounting yard once in a blue moon.