Cape Town - Following the retirement from Test cricket of a third senior player in just over a year, South African captain Hashim Amla says it will take time to find a successful formula for the future.
"The team will always change with the new faces in it, and to find the winning combination is still our main goal," Amla said on Tuesday after opening batsman Alviro Petersen announced he was quitting international cricket.
"Ever since I've become captain, it hasn't been about being number one. The focus has been about finding a winning team for the future. I still believe that will take a bit of time. The players who have come in have done well, which is great, but there are still probably going to be some changes here and there."
Petersen announced his retirement from Test cricket after the conclusion of the third and final Test against the West Indies in Cape Town on Tuesday, which South Africa won by eight wickets and took the series 2-0.
His decision came after both Jacques Kallis and former captain Graeme Smith retired within the last 12 months, and the way forward had been paved with a number of new players in the Proteas setup.
Experienced campaigners like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander would help with the transition process, Amla said.
"We lost two guys who have played for 15 years, but at least we still have the core of the team with five or six guys who have played together for the last ten years."
The Proteas arguably have the best bowling attack in Test cricket with Steyn, Morkel and Philander at their disposal. But Amla conceded that Philander at 29, Morkel at 30 and Steyn at 31 would also be hanging up their battered boots within the next few years.
"It's not often you're blessed with three bowlers of that calibre.
"At some stage, like with the batting, we'll have to see who the guys will be to take over because these guys can't go on forever. There are contingency plans - it's one of the reasons we have Kagiso Rabada in the squad. Also Kyle Abbott has done exceptionally well every time he's played."
South Africa played no fewer than three debutants during the West Indies series with Stiaan van Zyl, Temba Bavuma and Simon Harmer all coming into the team. Van Zyl scored an unbeaten ton on debut, during the first Test at Centurion and Simon Harmer took 7/153 in his first cap at Newlands.
Bavuma was less successful, scoring a total of 25 runs from two Test innings. Overall, Amla was pleased with the performances of his new caps.
"What they brought to the team has been amazing. The three of them brought a lot of energy to the team.
"With a debutant you always feel nervous and excited to see how they go and we're fortunate there were a lot of senior guys around them."
Amla took over the Test captaincy when Smith retired in March, and had since notched up four wins from his time in charge. The 31-year-old said the team's first-ever Test series win in Sri Lanka in July had been the most rewarding for him.
"It's just about getting used to the job in Test cricket. Sri Lanka was certainly a highlight for me, because I don't think many people expected us to win there.
"In Zimbabwe, we were expected to win and the same here against the West Indies."