Australia captain Michael Clarke has apologised for losing his cool in a heated exchange with Dale Steyn during the thrilling Test series decider at Cape Town.

Michael Clarke has apologised for a heated exchanged with Dale Steyn in the Test series decider, admitting he was “out of line”.

The thrilling final day of the three-Test series was played at a high tempo, and tempers finally flared with an hour to go following Vernon Philander’s successful review of his dismissal.

Words were exchanged between Steyn and James Pattinson, then Clarke entered the debate with pointed gestures reminiscent of his infamous run-in with Jimmy Anderson in Brisbane last year.

Umpires intervened and Clarke regained composure, making up with Steyn shortly after.

“I apologise to the opposition player I was out of line to,” Clarke said.

“A player who I have the utmost respect for, who tries to kill me every time I bat – who batted exceptionally well.

“Let’s just say he got me at a bad time (following Philander’s review).

“Something was said to one of my teammates. I seem to make this mistake a few times, but I jumped in after him.”

Steyn, nursing a hamstring strain he sustained in the first innings, survived for 44 balls as the Proteas threatened to salvage a draw in the match.

Clarke was also cautioned by the umpires for his fielders’ habit of throwing the ball into the pitch, a tactic used to rough the ball up and make reverse-swing easier to attain.

“The umpires were up me about a few things. That was one of them,” Clarke said.

“I always believed that if you’re in the ring you should be throwing the ball on the full … on the boundary you can accept that some guys can’t throw it that far.

“Whatever criticism we cop for that, I’m more than happy to cop.

“Our players understand there is a line and we know not to overstep that.

“We were asked by the umpires to make sure we were throwing the ball on the full and I think we accepted that and listened to that.”

Faf du Plessis was hounded by the Australians for his colourful remarks to the media two days ago, in which he likened them to “a pack of dogs” in the field.

Du Plessis was taunted about his ball-tampering charge last year and barked at, with David Warner among the more vocal.

“I wanted to give the people at home some entertainment while they were blocking it,” Warner joked.