Faf du Plessis has been an excellent stand-in since De Villiers was ruled out with an elbow injury last July. Du Plessis, who is the national T20 skipper, is yet to lose a match across all formats since taking over the leadership reins from De Villiers.
South Africa have triumphed 1-0 in the winter Test series against New Zealand and whitewashed Australia 5-0 for the first time in an ODI series at home prior to this on-going Test series here.
On Tuesday at the Bellerive Oval, Du Plessis’s Proteas completed “The Treble” when they became the first team since the West Indies sides of the 1980’s to win three consecutive Test series in Australia. The Proteas currently lead the three-match series 2-0 with the final Test in Adelaide to come next week.
Although Zondi and his panel are “happy with Faf”, the KwaZulu-Natalian stated that De Villiers remains the man in charge.
“At the moment it's clear to us that Faf is the stand-in captain and AB is the current captain when he comes back, looking at his fitness and so on,” Zondi said at the team hotel on Wednesday morning.
Du Plessis has always stressed that his good friend De Villiers is the man in charge and that he was just keeping the seat warm, but there’s no doubt that he has enjoyed the extra responsibilities.
He admitted as much after the crushing innings and 80-run victory over the Aussies, saying “I love captaining. It's something I really enjoy doing”.
It is visibly clear too that the entire Proteas squad have warmed to Du Plessis’s style of leadership and the culture he’s been a central figure in creating since De Villiers last led the team in the Caribbean in July.
“You have to find something, whatever that is for different teams, we looked at a few things we wanted to change within our team and we did that,” Du Plessis explained. “The most important thing is you have to live it. “The stuff that we spoke about there is not something we’re paying lip service to and it’s just words. Off the field we’re very happy, and we want to get better.”
Zondi is well aware of the “feel-good” factor currently running through the Proteas dressingroom and is wary of not wanting to disrupt it, but says that’s why they the selection panel initially opted for Du Plessis as the captain even though the 32-year-old hadn’t played the last Test of the previous summer against England.
“Faf has done a very good job. It was an easy process for us when the decision was made because he was already the T20 captain. So it was a continuation,” Zondi said.
“We are excited to have him as a leader. It just gives us more options. And we have other guys - Hashim Amla also brings experience. We are quite excited about how Faf has shown leadership but we are not going to be carried away.”
There has been plenty speculation in the Australian media that De Villiers will make a surprise return to action in South Africa’s inaugural day-night Test next week despite both Proteas coach Russell Domingo and team manager Mohammed Moosajee publically ruling out the possibility.
It was always going to be unrealistic considering De Villiers was required to spend eight to 10 weeks on the sidelines after having surgery in late September.
Sri Lanka are the visitors during the home summer and it is likely that De Villiers will play the backend of the domestic T20 competition for the Titans to ready himself for the international season.
“We will be guided by the medical team in terms of where he is and in terms of match fitness,” Zondi said. “That's important. He has been away for five months - a long time. For starters, he has to be match fit. We will take it from there.”
South Africa will certainly welcome arguably the world’s best batsman back with open arms when he does return from injury, but there’s no doubt Zondi and his panel will be feeling quite satisfied that the team has moved into a space where they are no longer solely reliant on De Villiers for his leadership or runs to be successful.
Independent MediaAB de Villiers is still the official Test and ODI captain of South Africa and will return to lead the side when he is fully fit, says national convenor of selectors Linda Zondi.
Original source: Faf’s excellent, but AB is still Proteas captain