Bangladesh have won just one of their 51 Tests -- against minnows Zimbabwe -- and have been thrashed by huge margins in the past four outings against the Proteas.
But they showed flashes of brilliance in a three-day warm-up game, prompting Smith and his men to put on their thinking caps ahead of the first Test at the Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur stadium in the capital on Friday.
"It will be a new challenge for us, we have to give them the respect they deserve," Smith told a press conference.
"It is always a great challenge to excel in the sub-continent, you have to earn your every win here.
"We are trying to gather as much information on the players as we can as we do not know them enough because we don't get to play them as often as we do against some other teams.
"It is going to be a lot of hard work for us over the next five days," said Smith, who will be leading his team in a national record 53rd Test as skipper, equalling the mark set by the late Hansie Cronje.
The left-handed batsman took over the reins in 2003 at the age of 22 to become South Africa's youngest-ever captain following a disastrous World Cup campaign under Shaun Pollock.
"It is a great honour and a dream to be the leading Test captain. I was fortunate that I was given an opportunity to lead the side at such a young age.
"Initially I was trying to prove I was good enough and strong enough to handle the job but now I am much more relaxed," he said.
Bangladesh skipper Mohammad Ashraful admitted the side was still struggling to come to terms with the longer version of the game, compared with one-day games.
"South Africa are going to be a step up from New Zealand and we will have to play really well to pose any kind of threat to them," he said referring to the team's huge defeats in their previous two Tests against the Kiwis.
"The practice match in which we scored 412-8 showed us that the result will take care of itself if we play the game well."
Bangladesh (from): Mohammad Ashraful (captain), Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Aftab Ahmed, Habibul Bashar, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Rafique, Mushfiqur Rahim, Rajin Saleh, Sajidul Islam, Shahadat Hossain, Shahriar Nafees, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal.
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Neil Mckenzie, Robin Peterson, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WIS) and Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV Umpire: ASM Akhtaruddin (BAN)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI).