The Jacques Kallis era has ended for South African cricket and a new era now has to begin. South Africa have a three-Test series against Australia starting in February to think about and part of that thinking is of finding a way to replace Kallis.
Of course, he will never really be truly replaced. Instead, South Africa have to find a way to make the team balance work without him. For so long they have had the luxury of an extra bowler who can step up when the spinners aren't functioning or when an injury hits one of the other bowlers.
The team balance is therefore delicate and poses a challenge for selectors. There's not going to be one player who can fill his role. There are, however, a few options to fiddle with the team to make things work.
Fill the Number Four Spot
This is the first step in filling the void. It's unlikely that the rookie who enters the team will bat at number four. Instead, it's more likely that somebody like Faf du Plessis will slot into the spot. He has shown that he has the ability to offer rear guard resistance and anchor an innings when those around him are losing their heads.
Du Plessis batting at number four is the most likely option, meaning whoever comes in as a replacement will get to bat lower down the order, with less pressure on them. Du Plessis batted at number four recently, during South Africa's second innings in the first Test against India. He moved up the order after Kallis had bowled an excess number of overs due to Morne Morkel's injury. He scored 134 off 309 balls and although that's a small sample, he might be a worthwhile experiment.
Replace Him with Another All-rounder of Some Description
No all-rounder who steps into the team is going to replace Kallis out-and-out. With Du Plessis filling the role at number four, that all-rounder can bat lower down the order and can be a bowling all-rounder. Although that does significantly lengthen the tail, with a wealth of batting talent in the top order, it shouldn't be too much of a worry for South Africa. There are two candidates for this role.
Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell both offer additional bowling and are more than apt with the bat. McLaren is sort on practice in the longer format and has played just one first-class game this season due to his international commitments. He has, however, become a key part of the limited overs side and even though he has often been inconsistent in those formats, Test cricket will offer him more time to settle.
Parnell is in a similar position and has played just one first-class game in the 2013-14 season. He offers South Africa a left-arm bowling option and has been reasonably apt with the bat, having opened for South Africa in limited overs before and has scored two hundreds opening the batting in limited overs for his franchise.
An outside contender, and more of a bowling option than a complete all-round one, is Simon Harmer. Harmer is an off-break bowler who is currently the second highest wicket taker of the domestic competition. He's not overly flash with the bat, but he is more than apt.
In the 46 first-class games he has played, he averages 33.12 with an unbeaten ton his top score. Selecting Harmer as a second spinner affords South Africa the opportunity to dismiss either JP Duminy or Robin Peterson and replace them with a specialist batsmen.
The Proteas spin department isn't overly effective and is perhaps the reason selectors will lean more towards an all-round option in the replacement stakes, unless they lean towards a more proactive overhaul option.
Replace Him with a Specialist Batsman or Wicketkeeper
The outside option is for South Africa to draft in a specialist batsman or wicketkeeper. Thami Tsolekile is already in the side as a wicketkeeping option, but with AB de Villiers seemingly content behind the stumps, it remains an outside possibility. He has played three first-class games for the Lions this season and scored 121 runs in four innings, with an unbeaten 63 his top score. In terms of the overall balance of the team, the specialist wicketkeeper isn't the ideal option for South Africa, though.
From a specialist batsman perspective, both uncapped Stiaan van Zyl and Quinton de Kock are options. Van Zyl is a classic left-hander who currently tops the first-class runs list for the 2013-14 season with 456 runs at an average of 91.20 in six innings.
He's scored two hundreds and one fifty and finished last season as the second-highest run-getter. He has been knocking on the selection door for a while and if South Africa are searching for an out-and-out batsmen, Van Zyl is a solid option.
On the back of his limited overs form, including hitting three consecutive ODI hundreds, De Kock is another option. Although his experience in the longest format of the game is limited, having played just 19 games, there is a notion that the only way you learn to swim is by being thrown into the deep end.
Australia, though, are an irksome team, especially with their sledging, as England have learnt in the Ashes. That kind of pressure is perhaps something selectors will be cautious to subject such a delicate young player to.