Cape Town - The Proteas come home from their tour of Sri Lanka with more questions than answers, but coach Ottis Gibson remains adamant that the side has taken significant steps towards becoming a title-challenging outfit at the 2019 World Cup in England.
The two Test matches did not go South Africa's way and they were completely outplayed, but the priority has been the World Cup for most of Gibson's year-long tenure at the helm of the national side.
In the ODI series, South Africa emerged as 3-2 winners and played some good cricket in the process, but they fell apart in the final two ODIs and then again in Tuesday's T20I where they fell to a 3-wicket defeat after having no answer to the Sri Lankan spinners.
There were some selection tweaks for the final three matches of the tour, and Gibson has explained that the long-term goal of winning in 2019 has taken preference over results.
"Our focus for the last six or eight months has been trying to get ready for the World Cup," Gibson said following the sole T20I in Colombo.
The Proteas went into the limited overs leg of their Sri Lankan tour without Imran Tahir, who Gibson says is still the first-choice spinner for 2019, while they also left Dale Steyn out of the mix completely following a difficult run in the Tests.
Looking ahead, Gibson has a good idea of what the World Cup squad will look like.
"I feel like right now we have 10 spots out of 15," he said.
"We brought a very inexperienced line-up here. It's not so much on purpose, but also about who is available. (Chris) Morris is injured, we felt Dale (Steyn) going back and playing some county cricket would be good for him."
The decision to go to Sri Lanka without Tahir meant that Gibson could have a look at what Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj could offer in the ODI format.
"We know what Dale can do in ODI cricket and we know what Tahir can do," Gibson explained.
"We told Tahir that he is our No 1, but it gave us an opportunity to see Shamsi and Maharaj and I think Shamsi has been brilliant on this tour. We left out Shamsi in the last two ODIs to give Kesh an opportunity and we've seen both of them now and we have to make a decision on whether we're going to take two spinners to the World Cup."
Winning in Sri Lanka, Gibson added, was never the priority.
South Africa, for all of its cricketing might since 1992, has never lifted a World Cup trophy. That, right now, is more important than anything.
"I'm happy with where the side is going, of course I'm not happy to lose and I'm sure the people watching back home aren't happy, but from the get-go we said it wasn't about winning for us," Gibson said.
"If it was all about winning for us we would have brought guys like Tahir and so on. Winning a series in Sri Lanka right now doesn't give us a strong indicator of where we are going into the World Cup.
"When we sit down to pick a World Cup squad now, we can sit down and say that we've seen these guys and they're not ready yet.
"We've answered some questions and we've got some questions we're still not sure about."
The Proteas are next in action when they host Zimbabwe in the first of three ODIs in Kimberley on September 30.