The Proteas rested three of their frontline bowlers for the St George’s Park clash but it made little difference as Australia were dismissed for just 167 inside 37 overs.
South Africa cruised to the 168 victory margin with more than 14 overs to spare to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.
Australia has never lost five matches in a bilateral ODI series but that is exactly what will happen if Steve Smith’s men can’t find a winning formula in Wednesday’s final clash at Cape Town.
The only other time Australia have lost four matches during an ODI tour of South Africa was an eight-match campaign in 1994 which finished drawn at 4-all.
Sunday’s game was as good as over within four overs after Australia won the toss and opted to bat first.
Kyle Abbott, playing in his first match of the series, and third-gamer Dwaine Pretorius (1-33), removed Aaron Finch (2), David Warner (8) and George Bailey (1) before the famous St George’s Park band had even got through their first raucous number.
It didn’t get any better with left-arm chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi exposing Australia’s weakness to spin once more on his way to career-best figures of 3-36 off 10.
Only Mitchell Marsh (50) and Matthew Wade (52) prevented the scoreline from being a complete humiliation for the tourists.
“We wanted to win the last two games and go home on a high,” Wade said.
“That hasn’t happened. We’re going to have to find a way to get our best performance forward in the last game.
“We haven’t played anywhere near our best in the first four games. We’ve been outplayed comprehensively.
“We’ve got to have a long hard look in the mirror and find a way to produce our best in the next game.”
Forced to return to the field before the scheduled half-hour break due to the brevity of their innings, Australia did strike twice through Chris Tremain (2-48) early.
But their score was never going to be enough with South Africa captain Faf du Plessis’s 69 anchoring a relatively comfortable run chase.
Abbott, who took 4-40, was named man of the match and said the lure of whitewashing the world champion Australians would definitely be driving the team in Newlands on Wednesday.
“No one’s got into this situation before so we can’t even begin to think what it might be like on Wednesday night if that does happen,” Abbott said.
“It’s been phenomenal at the moment. We celebrated well on Wednesday after winning the series and that was a big challenge for us (on Sunday) to put in another performance knowing that the series was secured and not take our foot off the gas.
“I think we did that pretty well so coming into Wednesday I don’t think we’ll do anything differently. We’ll stick to what we’ve done that’s won us four games.
“Hopefully make it five and make it history.”
MOST LOSSES BY AUSTRALIA IN A BILATERAL ODI SERIES
4 v South Africa (A) in 1994 (Series drawn 4-4)
4 v West Indies (A) in 1995 (Windies won 4-1)
4 v South Africa (H) in 2009 (SA won 4-1)
4 v England (A) in 2012 (Eng won 4-0)
4 v South Africa (A) in 2016 (SA lead 4-0, one to play)
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