Cape Town - The heavy series defeat in Australia has not deterred Proteas interim men’s coach Malibongwe Maketa from wanting to continue in the role on a permanent basis.
Maketa was appointed interim coach in November after Mark Boucher’s sudden resignation to join the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
The 42-year-old endured a baptism of fire in Australia with the hosts dominating the series, which they eventually won 2-0. The Proteas managed to hang on for a draw in the final Test in Sydney, but that was primarily due to almost two days of play being lost to rain and bad light.
Maketa, though, remains committed to the Proteas and is hoping to continue in the position after submitting his application to Cricket SA.
"Most definitely,” he said. “I think it's an exciting challenge with what we have. Looking at the players back home, everybody's looking up for an opportunity to push for a spot.
"From that point of view, I'll definitely be putting my name up and hope to be part of this project.”
The Proteas’ major Achilles heel on the tour of Australia was their poor efforts with the bat. Their highest score of the series - 255 - was posted in their second last innings of the tour but yet it was still not enough to avoid the follow-on.
Furthermore, the batting unit managed just five half-centuries throughout the series with no South African batter registering a century.
In contrast, Australia struck three centuries with David Warner stroking a majestic double-century in his 100th Test at the MCG, while Usman Khawaja was unbeaten on 195 in Sydney. Steve Smith also made 104 at the SCG.
"A lot of the guys at home are scoring runs, but I don't believe that any first-class system across the world will prepare you for the quality of this Australian attack," Maketa said.
"That means your first-class performers need to be exposed to the next level to close the gap for Test cricket.
"I believe in exposing the guys who are performing at first-class level through South Africa ‘A’ and this team to get a feel of what being at this level is all about.
"I know CSA is working hard to get more Test matches for us and it has been said enough that we have to play more Tests for us to grow.
"For these players to grow, they have to play more and be exposed to Test cricket. I felt we had enough first-class experience, but it was nowhere near enough to compete at this level and that bowling attack. You need to be tested a lot more to be able to compete at this level.”
Maketa, though, believes that the gap between the Proteas and Australia is not as large as the scoreboards suggest at the moment and that he is positive they can recover having learnt these harsh lessons Down Under.
“The quality of this Australian team is there for everybody to see, and they give you nothing," Maketa said.
"They control their lengths very well and set their fields cleverly, so from an experience and quality perspective, I can't say it’s difficult to gauge the gap because they've beaten us 2-0.
"How big is the gap? At the moment, it may feel big now, especially with how we played in the first two Tests.
"However, I don't think it's that big. If you look at our bowling attack and you look at the fact that we competed here, I believe that if two batters put their hands up in the first Test, we were in the game.
"We would've needed a lead of 100 runs and our bowling attack would've thrived in those conditions. Who knows?"