Captain Faf du Plessis said South Africa face an uphill task to re-establish themselves as a top test team but predicted they would bounce back in a few years after losing the series to England on Monday.
South Africa were handed an eighth defeat in their last nine tests — their worst run in over 100 years — as England completed a 3-1 series win by beating their hosts by 191 runs in the fourth test at The Wanderers on Monday.
Du Plessis blamed the team's plight on the loss of many key players in recent years, including AB de Villers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, and now Vernon Philander, who played his last test on Monday.
"We've got some good things in place with a strong and experienced coaching team and we know that in time they will guide players but the experience we are lacking now will also take time to get," he said.
South African cricket, reeling from accusations of corruption in its administration, appointed former wicketkeeper Mark Boucher as coach less than a fortnight before the series against England started and called up several untested players.
"We've had nine debutants in the last eight tests, which just shows where we are. It's experience we need and it will take time, and I know everyone is disappointed but every team goes through this.
"Unfortunately we are at the stage where it is happening right now and I have no doubt that in a year or two, we'll look back at this time and see that this is where it started again for us."
Du Plessis said the new test bowlers needed time to improve but praised the performance of Anrich Nortje, who proved a rare highlight for South Africa over the four tests against England.
"There is a gap where our next tier of bowlers need to be, to get to same quality as (Kagiso) Rabada, Philander, Morkel and Steyn.
"Nortje had a really good series and he is one of the finds for us. We always knew he had pace but the fact he showed control and adapted with different lengths on different pitches is what we need.
"We need guys to come into test cricket and just shine. That's what used to happen and it eased the transition period a lot quicker."
There was an expectation that the 35-year-old Du Plessis might step down after Monday's loss but he said he would not be making any hasty decisions.