There was little evidence of neighbourly niceness during South Africa's whitewashing of Zimbabwe in the three-ODI series but that does not mean all love was lost between the two sides. The next time South Africa think seriously about this Zimbabwean outfit will be on Valentine's Day 2015 - the eve of their opening World Cup game.

It is no accident that South Africa will begin mission 'Win the World Cup,' for the seventh time, against the same team they beat 3-0 when they began their build-up. South Africa have planned to play the teams they will face in the tournament, with West Indies up soon, and to play in the host countries, with visits to New Zealand and Australia in the next three months. That's how they roll. Clinically. And so when they hark back to this Zimbabwe series, they will remember it gave them both that winning feeling and the knowledge that their cupboard is full.

"We covered our bases pretty well," Faf du Plessis, South Africa's stand-in captain for the third ODI, said. "The bowlers were solid throughout the series and there were no blow-ups with the batters. It's nice from a confidence point of view that we've dominated Zimbabwe."

For du Plessis, the series was confirmation that he is a one-day player because there was a time when that was in doubt. Du Plessis had been dropped from the squad ahead of last year's series against India, following a run of middling scores and a moderate average, but was brought back for the Sri Lanka series in July, although he did not play.

He got a second chance when he was asked to step into Jacques Kallis' shoes for this rubber and it proved the perfect place for him. Du Plessis acted as the stonewaller when the innings needed steadying and brought out his more expressive side in the third game, when there was a small total to get and the series was already won. "When you're chasing you want to put the pressure back on the opposition," du Plessis said, when discussing his approach in the final fixture.

"I assessed the wicket and I felt it was a much better one to bat on, so I felt I could play a little more freely. It was nice to play like that. We both put the pressure on the bowlers and the runs kept flowing."

The second person in the 'we' that du Plessis mentioned was South Africa's find of the series, if someone who has already been discovered twice before can still be described as such. Quinton de Kock's three centuries in three matches against India was his breakthrough, his century in the ODI series in Sri Lanka was a show of his progress in subcontinent conditions, and his twin fifties in this series was evidence of his maturity.

Although his 100% century conversion record was broken, de Kock played the situations on slow, turning wickets with understanding. He attacked upfront to allow Hashim Amla and du Plessis time to settle, held himself back when he could see that rushing would be too risky, and when he thought the time was right to up the tempo again, he did, it even if meant putting his own milestone on the line because numbers aren't what de Kock cares about.

"Records don't interest me. That's more for the fans to keep them interested," de Kock admitted. "I'm sure some of the players like stats and that kind of thing, but I'm very chilled about it. My approach changes on different days. If I have to bat for long periods then I'll do that, but if I don't have to then I'll play the way I want to."

His next test will be against a team that will not allow him to dictate proceedings the way previous oppositions have. Australia's attack is likely to prove both a handful and a mouthful for de Kock, with their tactics as important as their talk in the breaking of young players.

Just as he approaches everything else, de Kock is gearing up for Australia with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a smile. "I'm not one for planning. I know some of the guys in the team are - they like to sit down and watch videos of the opposition, but I just like to hit a few balls in the nets and when it comes to the day, I'll play," he said. "I've seen them bowl enough as a youngster coming up to now, so it's enough for me."

An almost full-strength Australia, who are missing just David Warner and Shane Watson, will also prove a challenge for South Africa's attack, which is why they have brought back the heavyweights for the tri-series. But even apart from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, South Africa are well-stocked with sufficient variation to be successful.

They have the left-arm option of Wayne Parnell, whose accuracy has improved, and the pace of Marchant de Lange, although he will not appear in the tri-series. Importantly, they have added control of Kyle Abbott and Mthokozisi Shezi. The Dolphins' pair had the lowest economy rates of the pack and conceded just 3.50 and 1.33 runs to the over.

Abbott has the added element of height to extract extra bounce and can swing the ball while Shezi showed crafty change of pace. If used in an attack with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, either could act as the container while allowing the two front-liners license to attack. They may soon get the chance to show whether they can perform that balancing role because both were retained in place of the injured Vernon Philander and Beuran Hendricks.

"Fortunately we're getting Dale and Morne back, and we're also coming up against some proper opposition with Australia coming. Against teams like that you've got to be on top of your game," du Plessis said. No disrespect to Zimbabwe, but South Africa's real planning starts next week, and after that they will be able to judge what still needs to be done ahead of the World Cup.