STEVE Smith will miss the final match of Australia's South Africa tour, after copping a one-Test ban for his involvement in the disgraceful ball-tampering affair in the heavy third-Test defeat.

But his problems won't end there, with reports the embattled star - who has also been stepped down from the Australian captaincy - and his long-time deputy David Warner could face lifetime bans from cricket.

Should Steve Smith and David Warner be hit with lifetime bans?

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Cricket Australia can come in over the top of the ICC to impose more heavy sanctions on any of those involved in the ball-tampering affair - in which youngster Cameron Bancroft was caught red-handed with some makeshift sandpaper used to rough up one side of the ball and encourage reverse swing.

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Smith and his leadership group, he admitted, were the masterminds behind the pre-planned decision to cheat - prompting the ICC's one-Test ban, which is the maximum for a ball-tampering offence.

But under Cricket Australia's Code of Conduct, Cricinfo reports, Smith and others could face far more serious penalties.

"A charge of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game," the Cricinfo report reads, "includes the clause 'any conduct that is considered 'unfair play' under Rule 42 of the Laws of Cricket or against the spirit in which the game of cricket should be played'.

"The maximum penalty available to the code of conduct commissioner is a life ban from the sport, with factors to be taken into account including 'the seriousness of the breach' and 'the harm caused by the breach to the interests of cricket'."

Former England batsman - and a thorn in the side of Australian teams over the past decade and a half - Kevin Pietersen firmly hinted that Smith would face heavy sanctions in the coming days.

"A little birdie tells me that the weak ICC punishment isn't anywhere near what Cricket Australia is thinking...." Pietersen wrote on Twitter.

Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland penned a personal apology to Australian cricket fans as he announced Smith and Warner had been relieved of their duties for the remainder of the third Test shortly before play on day four in Cape Town.

"Following discussions with Steve Smith and David Warner they have agreed to stand down as Captain and Vice-Captain respectively for the remainder of this Test match," Sutherland said. "This Test match needs to proceed, and in the interim we will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands.

"As I said earlier today, Cricket Australia and Australian cricket fans expect certain standards of conduct from cricketers representing our country, and on this occasion these standards have not been met. All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings, as a matter of priority."

Sutherland was visibly upset when he fronted the press in Melbourne on Sunday morning, revealing that Cricket Australia were sending a team comprising Head of Integrity Iain Roy and high performance manager Pat Howard to South Africa to investigate the sorry saga.

"We have a responsibility to take this further," Sutherland said.

Sutherland hinted at a more deep-seated divide between Cricket Australia and its besieged skipper - who held a long-running battle with the game's bosses in this country during the ugly pay dispute last year.

The Australian team has come under fire in recent weeks for its aggressive conduct on and off the field, with Sutherland revealing it had been a point of discussion at high levels.

"Steve Smith's currently the captain of the Australian team, we're working through that process at the moment," Sutherland said when asked directly if Smith would be stood down.

"I haven't spoken to Steve Smith, no. But in recent times I've had reason to speak to Steve about the team's behaviour.

"...My feeling is we're shocked and extremely disappointed with what we saw on the field and the actions and what we discussed after the game.

"We don't have all of the evidence at hand."



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