South Africa primed to beat reigning champions February 27, 2007

Australia on a downhill slide - Richards

Cricinfo staff

Barry Richards says Australia remain vulnerable even with all their batting power © Getty Images

Australia are in danger of being targeted as a team past its prime at the World Cup after the losses to England and New Zealand, according to Barry Richards. "Ever since England won the triangular series in Australia, a lot of people have been saying that Australia are going to come back even stronger," Richards, the former South Africa batsman, told the Courier-Mail. "I am not convinced.

"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."

Richards said South Africa were buoyed by their new No. 1 ODI ranking and were 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. "The players know this and you have to wonder how it will impact on their preparations. How do you respond to a man who you know is leaving?"

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 in his role 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," Nielsen said in the Herald Sun. "My responsibility at the moment is to make sure that is running as well it possibly can before those young kids come in here."