Graeme Smith believes South Africa are in safe hands, despite his retirement as captain and the recent departures of coach Gary Kirsten and all-rounder Jacques Kallis, because the squad are still brimming with experience.
Smith announced his retirement in March after 12 years, more than 9,000 Test runs and 27 centuries for his country. His 53 wins in 109 matches as captain also made him the world's most successful Test skipper.
But Smith told a news conference with his English county team Surrey at the Oval on Thursday that the top-ranked Test side in the world had nothing to worry about. "There have been a lot of positive changes in South African cricket in the past 11 to 12 years," Smith said. "Structure and systems are now there to help the next generation to be better. It's now more professional than ever before."
Smith was thrown into the captaincy at only 22 after the resignation of Shaun Pollock following a miserable first-round exit from the 2003 World Cup on home soil.
The 33-year-old has since admitted it took him four or five years to settle into the job but says this time round there are more senior players in the squad to help the team progress after the departure of their captain. "I think back to when I got the captaincy and we had Gary (Kirsten), Allan (Donald) and Jonty (Rhodes) walk away," Smith said.
"Now you have got guys that are there that have played 60 or 70 Test matches, and 100 to 150 ODIs. "You've got six or seven guys that are groomed to move into that senior player role." South African head coach Russell Domingo took over from Kirsten last August and Smith says the onus is now on him to see the team into the next era.