David Warner says the previous series against Australia proved Vernon Philander could be tamed.

David Warner says the previous series against Australia proved Vernon Philander could be tamed. Photo: Getty Images

David Warner says Australia's batsmen are eager to punish the world's top-ranked bowler, Vernon Philander, because of a suspicion he is only dangerous when conditions suit him.

When nagging seamer Philander made his debut in 2011 in South Africa's home series against Australia, he was almost unplayable, finishing with 14 wickets at an average of 13.93. Of the nine series he has played, he has finished with a bowling average below 24 in all but one - the 2012-13 series in Australia when he claimed only four wickets at 49.75.

Warner said he would not underplay the threat of Philander when conditions were conducive to sideways movement, but said the previous series against Australia proved he could be tamed.

He also goaded Philander for his withdrawal from the second Test at the Adelaide Oval two seasons ago, in which Australia made 550 in its first innings and the Proteas barely escaped with a draw.

''I would have liked to see him bowl at Adelaide in that second Test when he apparently hurt his back - and was bowling in the nets three days later,'' Warner said on Wednesday in Johannesburg.

''On a flat wicket, who knows? But on a good wicket he's very tough and will be challenging. We know that, we've seen the [number] of dismissals he gets.

''I was watching yesterday the highlights of us when we played over here last in his first series. He was nibbling them about and obviously conditions were in his favour. If it becomes flat we've got to make the most of it and try to get on top of him, but if it's green and seaming we've got to try and respect him as much as we can.''

Warner said the Proteas took a conspicuously different approach to Australia in terms of their public commentary.

''They like to keep a lot of things in-house, they don't talk in the media as much. They don't talk themselves up, which a lot of other nations probably do - including us. We try to get into a bit of a verbal war. Sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does,'' he said.

Given South Africa's mighty first-choice pace attack of Dale Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel, left-handed Warner, who is yet to play a Test in South Africa, indicated he and his teammates would be ready to pounce on signs of weakness from left-arm spinner Robin Peterson.

''Any team that has quality fast-bowlers, always try and take down the spinner. We did that against Graeme Swann. We know England tried to do that to Nathan [Lyon], we tried to do it against Robin when he played against us in Australia [in late 2011],'' he said. ''We've got to respect him, and then when we feel we can go after him we'll go after him.''

Warner said Peterson's willingness to be verbally combative on the field increased his motivation to score heavily against him during the three-Test series, which begins next week.

He said Peterson ''likes to get into verbal contests. Sometimes, as a batter, if they've got that chip on their shoulder we're willing to take them down a bit more''.