Back in the eventful summer of 2008-09, when Australia hosted the Proteas for three matches and then travelled to South Africa for another three, Johnson broke both of Smith’s hands on different occasions.
In Sydney, Johnson cracked Smith on the left, and then two months later, he fractured his right hand for good measure with a 150km/h bullet in Durban.
The South African captain certainly didn’t go down meekly on either occasion, and is primed for another epic battle with the left-armer in Cape Town. Smith said the injuries inflicted by Johnson had lasting effects, and he now wears gloves with extra padding.
“I’ve moved away from the glove that I used through that period where I had my issues,” Smith said.
“I’ve changed back to the old style glove that I used for a large part of my career.
“The physio has helped me build a little bit of protection in that area, but that injury is feeling strong now.
“I think I’ve had good time to regroup from that.
“If anything, I came back from those too soon but now they’ve had enough time to regroup and get strong around the bone so that’s definitely not an issue for me anymore.”
At the SCG, Smith showed memorable courage to emerge from the dressing room and come out to bat in a bid to salvage a draw. And at Kingsmead, he attempted to soldier on for a short time as well.
Despite the blood he’s spilt for his country, Smith has struggled with public and media perception since the World Cup. He made a half century in the one-day series against Australia but, other than that, he’s looked unsure at the crease and hasn’t played a first-class match since January.
Smith said he and Johnson are an even match, and he’s relishing the chance to go head to head again.
“Myself and Mitch had some good battles. He’s a world class bowler and he seems to really thrive in these conditions,” he said.
“I’ve also had my opportunities where I’ve got the better of him.
“Obviously I’ll need to find a way to hit the ball back at him to get fully back at him but that’s the nature of the game, the nature of opening the batting.
“You take your blows and you move on, and … both of us will be fronting up again and that’s the exciting thing about sport.”