AB welcomes new-look Proteas

Johannesburg - Proteas ODI captain AB de Villiers says finding a replacement for the retired Jacques Kallis was a top priority for the team as the countdown towards the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup gained momentum.

"Jacques will definitely be missed.

"He has had an amazing career," De Villiers said at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday.

The Proteas departed for a once-off Test against Zimbabwe on Saturday, which would be followed by a three-match ODI series.

The new-look Proteas side comprised of fresh faces like Kagiso Rabada and Mthokozisi Shezi, while Rilee Rossouw has come in as a direct replacement for Kallis, who announced his retirement from international cricket last week.

"It’s very exciting, the guys that came in are guys that have put up their hands in the last while," De Villiers said.

"They showed us that they have got what it takes to perform at this level."

With the two neighbouring nations set to meet in their opening Pool B encounter at the World Cup, De Villiers said the tour should serve as a good measuring stick.

"It will be a good Test and a good challenge for them, and a great opportunity for us to have a look at the new talent coming through.

"Being eight months away from the World Cup, there are always spots open and available."

Proteas coach Russell Domingo was excited to reunite with the uncapped Rossouw.

"I went on a South Africa ‘A’ tour with him to Bangladesh and I’ve always thought that he was a special player," Domingo said.

"He’s always had the ability to win games, so I’m very pleased that he’s got into the squad. He’s been a consistent performer for two or three years now.

"He’s an exciting player to have in the mix. He’s another left-hander and he’s definitely a modern one-day player."

After the once-off test and three ODIs against Zimbabwe, the Proteas will compete in a triangular series which includes Australia.

Domingo said he knew little of what to expect from the pitches that lie in wait in Harare and Bulawayo.

"From reports that I’ve read, they’re most likely going to prepare quite a flat wicket, which will be good for us," he said.

"We play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent next year, India and Bangladesh, so the more preparation we get under those type of conditions will definitely benefit us."

Proteas Test captain Hashim Amla, who was carrying with him the ICC Test Championship mace, was upbeat about maintaining their world number-one Test ranking ahead of the World Cup.

"We haven’t been to Zimbabwe in probably one or two years now," Amla said.

"For us it will be business as usual. Test cricket and international cricket, you can never let your guard down. It’s quite important to keep the winning ways and that’s what we intend doing."

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