Sydney: Former South African opener Barry Richards is convinced that Australia's 12-year reign as the top cricketing nation is all but over, and believes South Africa's time has come.

``Ever since England won the triangular series in Australia, a lot of people have been saying that Australia is going to come back even stronger. I am not convinced, '' Richards told the Courier-Mail.

``A lot of the other sides see the Aussies as a team with stars of the past nearing the end of their careers. They now believe they can beat the Aussies and none more so than South Africa and New Zealand,'' he added.

Richards said South Africa is buoyed by its new No. 1 ODI ranking and was in a strong position to claim the World Cup for the first time. He believed the potential departures of a number of coaches after the tournament would increase South Africa's chances.

``Apart from Australia's John Buchanan, there are four others in the exit lane: Bob Woolmer with Pakistan, Duncan Fletcher with England, Greg Chappell with India and Tom Moody with Sri Lanka,'' Richards said.

Richards' comments came as Buchanan's replacement, Tim Nielsen, confirmed he would not be travelling to the Caribbean as originally planned. He said it was vital he stay on as head coach at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, especially with a number of other assistants already heading to the World Cup with Buchanan.

``We have got enough on our plate here at the Academy. My responsibility at the moment is to make sure that is running as well it possibly can before those young kids come in here,'' Nielsen told the Herald Sun. ANI

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