David Warner's mouth, Nathan Lyon's manners and Mitchell Starc's menace have combined to reignite the rivalry between Australia and South Africa.

Match referee Jeff Crowe is expected to scrutinise the celebrations of Warner and Lyon, who combined to run out AB de Villiers on day four of the first cricket Test in Durban.

Lyon dislodged the bails then dropped the ball right next to de Villiers, who was disconsolate and in the dirt after unsuccessfully diving to make his ground.

Warner appeared to give both de Villiers and Aiden Markram a spray, presumably critiquing their running between the wickets after a horrible mix-up led to the former being dismissed for a duck.

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ICC laws dictate that players must not use "language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman upon his/her dismissal."

Crowe is also likely to look into South African speedster Kagiso Rabada's send-off of Warner on day three, which attracted the attention of the umpires.

Warner and Lyon have no recent charges, meaning it's likely both will escape with a slap on the wrist if they are booked, while Rabada risks a two-Test ban if he is charged.

Starc sparked to life during the post-lunch session, giving recalled batsman Theunis de Bruyn an almighty spray as another war of words broke out.

Australia's bowler Nathan Lyon, right, reacts after running out South Africa's batsman AB de Villiers, for a duck. Photo / AP
Australia's bowler Nathan Lyon, right, reacts after running out South Africa's batsman AB de Villiers, for a duck. Photo / AP

BAD LIGHT FRUSTRATES AUSSIES

Australia was frustrated by bad light and will have to come back to Kingsmead on the final day to confirm what should be a series-opening victory.

Starc tore through South Africa's lower order at the end of the fourth day, and was denied the chance of a hat trick in strange circumstances right at the end. Australia reduced South Africa to 293-9 in its second innings, one wicket from ending the game, when the umpires took the players off because the light wasn't good enough to play.

Starc finished with 4-74 and nine wickets in the match after removing three batsmen in an over late in the day. He was on a hat trick when he removed Vernon Philander on the second delivery of his over and then sent the ball crashing into the stumps of Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada off the fifth and sixth deliveries.

But umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Sundaram Ravi ruled the light wasn't good enough for the quicks to bowl after that and Starc had to watch as spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith bowled the last nine overs of the day.

The call on the light also meant Starc couldn't push for his 10th wicket of the match after his 5-34 in the first innings set up Australia. He could now get his hat trick and the 10th when the teams return Monday.

Australia's push for victory was also held up by South Africa opener Aiden Markram, who gritted it out for 5 1/2 hours for his 143. Markram batted for almost the entire day, falling late on to a catch up at the stumps by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off Mitchell Marsh.

BATTLE LINES DRAWN

Contests between Australia and South Africa are often among the most intense and heated in international cricket.

Warner and de Villiers have plenty of history.

The pugnacious Australian opener was fined in 2014 for essentially accusing de Villiers of ball-tampering.

"It was quite nice today. They were very friendly compared to last time," de Villiers said after day two in Durban, when asked about the tourists' sledging.

"It gets the juices flowing. I particularly enjoy it."We also get stuck in and try and unsettle the batters. It's part of the game."

Proteas captain Faf du Plesiss did exactly that during Warner's second innings at Kingsmead, endlessly chattering about the visiting vice-captain's "ego".

Warner has been loud and lively throughout the match. He taunted de Villiers on day two about his struggles to convert half-centuries into hundreds at Test level.

"We're all grown men. We'll compete hard, we know where the line is," Lyon said last week.

"It's a mental game as well as a physical game.

"I know when I go out to bat I get a warm welcome from most of them, it's part of the game."

- AAP