Did we see the first and the last of South Africa's pace quartet?

This is not Johannesburg yet.

Dean Elgar didn't say it but he might as well have. Especially to R Ashwin. Especially when he was greeted by a Kagiso Rabada bouncer that was aimed at his chest and struck him on his right index finger, especially because Ashwin apparently said the same to Elgar during South Africa's tour to the subcontinent in late 2015.

On a raging turner, Ashwin reminded Elgar that he could not approach his innings as he would on a surface where the ball bounces off the pitch and flies in the air. On a fantastic Cape Town surface, which has had good bounce and carry and facilitated seam movement, Elgar might have wanted to remind Ashwin that the worst is still to come.

Imagine this South African pack at the Wanderers. Before we start dissecting the action at Newlands, just imagine Dale Steyn - although chances of him playing there are now slim - swinging the ball at pace, and altitude, Vernon Philander moving it just enough on a pitch that has endless opportunity for him to exploit, Morne Morkel making it bounce up to the throat and Rabada's aggression at the Wanderers. It's the stuff dreams are made of, or in a batsmen's case, nightmares.

The morning session proved just how difficult and dangerous a full-strength all-pace South African attack in their own conditions can be. First there was Steyn, who, even when he is not operating at full pace, is a handful when he is bowling full and just outside off. On the other end was Philander, who is even more accurate, so much so that he can be impossible to get away. Together they produced 24 dot balls at the start of the second day, and Philander went on to deliver another 21 on his own. His second morning spell read 6-5-1-0 and he had Rohit Sharma under his thumb. Rohit could not make contact with balls that seamed away just enough to leave him at sea.

Then there was Morkel, who has started to concentrate on a fuller length and now has a full repertoire to threaten with. And at second change was Rabada, the young gun who was the quickest, most aggressive and most impressive of them all. Rabada moved the ball back in to Rohit from back of a length, demanded shots off the back foot. He created the first real chance when Rohit got a thick outside edge that flew between third slip and gully and the second when he thought he had Rohit caught behind.

Faf du Plessis stationed four slips, a gully and a leg gully in place for Rabada and gave him a license to let rip. Rabada had Rohit out lbw and then peppered Ashwin with a mixture of short and full balls that had him hopping. It was not Johannesburg but Ashwin was still struggling to survive.

That sums up the Indian approach in the morning. They did not come out looking for runs, they came out hoping to just hang on. But hang on until when? After Steyn and Philander, came Morkel and Rabada. So, perhaps, Keshav Maharaj was the bowler they were waiting for - and Hardik Pandya certainly seemed to enjoy the spinner after he had survived a chance. Even then, Maharaj can only operate from one end and one of the four quicks will be at the other. If you're a batsmen, it's like climbing a hill only to realise there is another one to climb. And another. And a fourth.

Waiting for the bowlers to fall flat is not an option because South Africa's four just don't. They are all accurate, they all limit scoring opportunities - only 48 runs came in 25 overs in the morning - and they all consistently threaten to take wickets. They only relaxed for periods in the afternoon session in the blazing heat, when the ball softened. Pandya cashed in but he was just about the only one.

Still, this South Africa attack would not have wanted to concede a 100-run partnership to the Indian lower order, especially when they saw Steyn leave the field. Steyn was swiftly taken for scans to assess the extent of the damage and suddenly, we were faced with the reality that this quartet may not play many matches together.

Given that the chances of them having a long-term future are slim, comparisons the West Indian greats of the 80s are premature, even though South Africa is the only other country to have been able to field four pacers with over 100 Test wickets each since Garner-Roberts-Holding-Croft in 1981-82.

In 2008, against West Indies, South Africa had an attack that included Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Andre Nel. In 2013 against India, Steyn, Morkel and Philander played alongside Jacques Kallis. Today, it was Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Rabada.

Undoubtedly, Michael Holding, who has been full of praise for Rabada over the last two years, is watching this with great satisfaction. So is everyone who is a fan of fast bowling. Who knows if South Africa are preparing pitches that will only suit this attack more as the series goes on. It's not Johannesburg yet but in less than three weeks it will be.