Cape Town - Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis acknowledges that his own personal efforts were well below par in his side's Test series defeat to England, but he has emphasised that this should be viewed as a rebuilding phase.
South Africa lost the fourth Test at the Wanderers by 191 runs on Monday to lose the series 3-1, with Du Plessis himself coming in for some heavy public scrutiny along the way for both his poor batting form and captaincy.
Du Plessis carded scores of 21, 20, 1, 19, 8, 36, 3 and 35 throughout the series, but his failures were also flanked by a largely untested South African top order that included Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza and Rassie van der Dussen.
The Proteas were also forced to field a new-look bowling attack with Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson and Wanderers debutant Beuran Hendricks operating alongside each other for the first time at this level.
Allrounder Dwaine Pretorius was another newcomer and one of five debutants the Proteas ended up fielding throughout the four-match series.
This was also head coach Mark Boucher's first series in charge of the Proteas, along with his backroom staff of Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveldt and Director of Cricket Graeme Smith.
The batting, though, was the one area where Du Plessis felt the Proteas were comfortably second best.
A lack of partnerships, poor decision making in the middle and an inability to post competitive first-innings totals were all bemoaned by the skipper at different stages of the series, but on reflection he pointed to inexperience on all fronts and a rebuilding phase.
"That's the reality of where we sit. We've put some good things in place with the strong, experienced coaching team. We know that, through time, they will guide players," Du Plessis said.
"But the experience we are lacking now will also take time.
"There is still a gap in terms of the next tier of bowlers and where they need to get to .. Rabada, Morkel, Philander, Steyn ... those guys.
"Anrich Nortje had a fantastic series and we always knew he had pace, but to be able to adjust lengths on different pitches and conditions is exactly what we need now.
"We need guys to come into Test cricket and just shine.
"I think we've had nine debutants in eight Test matches ... and it just shows where we are. We're a team that will take time."
Du Plessis would not make any drastic decisions regarding his own future, but instead focused on where this side needed to grow.
"I'm sitting here extremely disappointed and I know the coaching staff is disappointed and you guys and the fans should be disappointed, but every team goes through this," he said.
"Unfortunately, we're at the stage where it is happening right now, but I have no doubt that in a year or two we will look back and this will be where it started for us.
"It can look and feel quite bad, but there is a lot of talent and I think you've seen that a lot of people are trying to get the system right so that in two years' time we will be the team that we need to be again."
The three-match ODI series against England will start on February 4.
- Compiled by Lloyd Burnard