Johannesburg - The road to the Cricket World Cup starts here according to Proteas coach Russell Domingo, referring to the tour of Sri Lanka where his side will take on the home side in their conditions.
South Africa will play Sri Lanka in three One Day Internationals (ODIs) and two Tests, but with the shorter format contest starting on July 6 the focus is securely on limited overs.
"There are still 26 ODIs to play before the World Cup. There's a lot of cricket to be played," said Domingo ahead of the team's departure for Sri Lanka at OR Tambo International on Sunday.
"When you get to the World Cup, you want to have confidence. You want to be one of the top sides in the world, and be the team to beat."
While conditions in Sri Lanka will be unlike those of the World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand in February, improving the ranking of the Proteas, currently fourth in the 50-over game, would be the aim.
"I suppose in the lead-in to the tournament we want to get our positioning in the rankings higher.
"One thing is for sure, our preparation does start in earnest on this tour."
The Proteas last played ODI cricket in December when India toured South Africa, where the hosts won the three match series 2-0 with the third contest rained out.
On the spinning conditions in Sri Lanka, Domingo said the venue in Hambantota would suit South Africa best. The Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, in Hambantota, however, will be the venue for the third and final ODI and the series may already be decided.
"We haven't played ODI cricket for months, but we're playing in Hambantota which suits us better, the heat is stifling in Sri Lanka, it's very testing conditions.
"We just need to assess conditions when we get there, but we have a pretty good idea."
Just a year ago, South Africa fell to a 4-1 ODI series defeat in Sri Lanka in Domingo's first tour in charge. Domingo, however, said the side was better-balanced than 12 months prior.
"Having Jacques Kallis back, he brings a lot experience to the side "We're close to having a group of 17 or 18 players at the moment, its not rocket science and all these players can play for us at the World Cup."
Overall, Domingo was optimistic about his side's chances against the heavily-favoured Sri Lankans on their home turf, and cited the win in the T20 series at at the end of the previous tour as important.
"The way we finished the last series in Sri Lanka was encouraging.
"I know in the ODIs we lost 4-1, Hashim Amla played one match then he got sick, there was no Dale Steyn or Kallis.
"Last year was a big learning experience and now we welcome back some of the more experienced guys."