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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
South Africa are 'back on track'
Smith (right) with AB de Villiers
Smith (right) says South Africa have matured this season
Captain Graeme Smith says South Africa have turned a corner after a tough season that saw them lose series in India and at home to England.

Smith's side are 2-0 up going into Friday's last Test against West Indies.

"We have come a long way, we have finished the season in a strong way and it is really gratifying," said Smith.

"We have taken some big steps over the last two months after a hard run of eight, nine months and the guys have really stepped up."

South Africa have barely had a break since touring Sri Lanka in August, playing 14 Tests and 17 one-day internationals, including a home series against Zimbabwe.

Coach Eric Simons was sacked after they failed to win a match in Sri Lanka.

And Ray Jennings, who replaced Simons on an interim basis, has come in for particular criticism during that time, with reports of rifts between him and Smith during the 2-1 Test defeat to England.

One thing that eight or nine months of tough times taught us was that you can't afford to take a Test match win for granted
Graeme Smith

And the controversy continued last week when selector Omar Henry publicly asked: "What has Jennings really achieved since becoming the national coach?

"He could not beat India at home and he lost against England on our own pitches."

Jennings is expected to be replaced on 19 May but Henry's outburst was described as "unacceptable" by cricket board president Ray Mali.

However, Smith believes the team has matured greatly during the season.

"Teams go through different periods and different phases in their development and I think we are starting to step out of that phase now," he said.

"The maturity levels of each player, the responsibility each player has taken for their own performance, their performance in training ... they are reaping the rewards now."

And Smith promised the lessons learned will be put into action in Antigua this weekend.

"One thing that eight or nine months of tough times taught us was that you can't afford to take a Test match win or Test match form for granted," he added.

"So definitely we'll be out there performing well for those five days."

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