Steve Smith has called on Australia to reclaim their marauding mojo at the WACA, with the so-called "head of the snake" pledging to make his presence felt as captain.

Tired of having the team's persona under his captaincy criticised by some as soft and vanilla, Smith has delivered a pointed pre-summer message to a confident South Africa that they are in his house now.

Proteas spearhead Dale Steyn has tried to throw down the gauntlet to Smith by declaring he will be out to cut off the head of the snake. But Australia's leader won't be backing down and is planning on unleashing some aggressive body language, and maybe the odd "hiss", to mark his territory.

On the disastrous tour of Sri Lanka, poor batting was compounded by Australia's fielding standards falling drastically and the side's famed on-field bravado disappeared completely.

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Steve Smith says he needs to "own the place" as war of words heats up.
Steve Smith says he needs to "own the place" as war of words heats up.Source:Getty Images

Smith wants Australia to "own" the summer mind games out in the middle, and says it's up to him as much as anyone to set the example.

"For me I don't like to say a great deal, it's more about making sure that my body language is right and I'm puffing my chest out and looking like I'm out there and I own the place," he said.

"I've been working on that and hopefully we can see some good presence from the Australian team this summer.

"That's what I'm after from the team. It's not about necessarily about sledging. It's about making sure that each individual can get the best out of themselves and have a presence about them."

Former Test captain Steve Waugh was particularly critical of Australia being "soft" in their approach in Sri Lanka.

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In Waugh's era fielding set the bar for everything else the side did, and a plague of dropped catches and sloppy efforts has slowly crept into Australia's game in recent months.

Smith said fielding was another prime focus.

"I don't think we've fielded particularly well over the last year or so. The guys have been working hard at it," he said.

"The slippers have caught very well in practice ... Test cricket is more about catching."

Smith told Fox Sports News he might "hiss" at Dale Steyn if he "gets a few runs", but otherwise he's hoping the Proteas make a rod for their own back by hunting specifically for his wicket.

"He's obviously a world-class bowler and you always want to go up against the best and I'm excited to come up against this pace attack," Smith said.

"(The snake reference) is an interesting theory. I think we've got a lot of batters in our line-up that are capable of scoring big runs.

"They can think that way if they like. Hopefully (if) they get rid of me they just start to think the rest is going to happen. That'd be nice and hopefully our guys can cash in."

Meanwhile, Smith said the decision to go with Peter Siddle as the third fast bowler over uncapped South Australian seamer Joe Mennie was based on experience.