De Voest announced yesterday that this week’s tie against Lithuania, starting in Centurion on Friday, would be his last appearance in the international team competition. He also confirmed he would retire from professional tennis in August, in order to spend more time with his family.
“You can’t just replace someone like Rik,” De Jager said.
“He’s a great ambassador for the team and he lifts his game every time he plays for his country.
“He takes care of the details, looks after his body and makes sure he gives himself the best possible chance every time he steps on court.”
De Jager remained confident, however, of retaining a competitive young squad in the absence of De Voest, who has spearheaded the Davis Cup team in recent years with SA No 1 Kevin Anderson making himself unavailable.
He insisted, however, that there needed to be regular opportunities for the squad to work together, rather than having a “crash course” training camp a few days before each tie.
“It’s going to be tough for them to step up straight away,” De Jager said. “A lot of these guys are playing Futures Tour events, which is entry level international tennis, and then we expect them to step up to the highest level for five-set Davis Cup matches.
“We need more time to work with them, which costs money, but it would help the development of all our top players in the country,” he said.
De Voest will receive a Davis Cup commitment award this week for making his 20th appearance in the top three tiers of the competition over the last 12 years.
The 33-year-old Canadian resident has won 26 of the 44 singles and doubles rubbers he has played since his debut against Hungary in Pretoria in July 2002.
“It will be fitting to play my last tie here at my home club in Irene,” De Voest said.
“It’s been a memorable journey and I am very proud of what I have achieved.”