The South African camp and former Australia batsman Simon Katich have called on the match officials to play a more proactive role in ensuring that tensions between the two sides don’t boil over and lead to incidents such as the one between David Warner and Quinton de Kock on the fourth day in Durban.

With the teams pointing fingers at the other, it will be up to the on-field umpires – Kumar Dharmasena and S Ravi – and match referee Jeff Crowe to decide if the altercation merits disciplinary action. They have until 3pm on Tuesday to do so.

“The important thing is that match referee has to step in and nip this in the bud,” Katich told ESPNcricinfo. “If it is allowed to keep going on, then things are going to get out of control as we saw in the tunnel. And we don’t need that look for Test cricket.”

The South Africa captain Faf du Plessis had suggested earlier that Dhamarsena and Ravi should have stepped in when Warner and de Kock were exchanging words on the field, which could have prevented the argument spilling over into the stairwell as players left the field for tea.

“I heard there was a lot of personal stuff on the field already. To and from. Who started it, I don’t know,” du Plessis said. “If it was happening on the field, it probably should have been nipped in the bud on the field already. Umpires play a big role in that, to make sure you don’t let it get to that stage. There have been a lot of games where our bowlers will get penalised, or [pick up] demerit points if you step over the line.”

While nothing was broadcast on the stump mic, several sources said they heard Warner and de Kock make comments of a “personal nature” to each other. Australia captain Steven Smith claimed de Kock “got quite personal and provoked an emotional response from Davey”, but insiders close to the South African camp insist it was the other way around. The suggestion from South Africa is that the umpires were aware of what was being said but can sometimes be “too intimidated by Australia,” to act.

“This is where the umpires need to step in as soon as they start to hear stuff,” Katich said. “We have all heard about the stump mics being turned up and everything being heard, but initially, the umpires have got to be the ones to hear this stuff and put it to rest straight away; give the warnings to the skippers and get the skippers to control it. That obviously hasn’t happened, and now it is tit for tat with the teams blaming each other for who started it.”

Neither side is contesting the line was crossed, something that has become frequent in their bilateral contests. Most recently, on South Africa’s tour to Australia in 2016, du Plessis was the centre of a ball-tampering storm when Fox Sports published footage of him shining the ball with saliva while he had a mint in his mouth. Du Plessis was fined 100% of his match fee but received massive support from team-mates and the opposition, with Smith saying such practices were common.

Du Plessis, however, was labelled a “cheat” in the Australian press, which he said he took personally, and there was a physical altercation when he was trailed by a Channel Nine television crew on arrival in Adelaide.

While South Africa are not saying so, this is an opportunity to get their own back. The CCTV footage from Kingsmead of Warner’s aggressive confrontation of de Kock was first made public by a South African publication Independent Media.

Du Plessis hoped the incident would not detract from the quality of cricket on show in Durban. “It’s generally isolated incidents – it’s one incident now. You expect that playing against Australia,” he said. “It’s competitive cricket. As long as it stays on the field, its okay.”

But Smith could not guarantee there wouldn’t be more sparks during the series, but hoped his players would stay within acceptable limits. “There’s going to be times when people can let their emotions get the better of themselves, it’s part of playing the international game and playing at such a high intensity and with everything that comes with playing international sport,” he said. “I’m not going to say nothing will ever happen again, but as far as I’m concerned we’ve just got to try to play within the spirit of the game.”

Neither Smith nor du Plessis knew whether Warner and de Kock had put the issue to bed, but the pair shook hands at the end of the match. “Quinny is fine. You don’t get a reaction out of Quinton anyway most of the time,” du Plessis said. “When you look at him now, it’s like nothing happened.”

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