Between through 2016, du Plessis took charge – on a temporary basis – of a team that had lost six of their last eight Test matches. With AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn both undergoing surgery, the future looked even more uncertain. “When I took over it was at a time of real darkness as a Test team,” du Plessis reflected on Wednesday (July 26). “I had a vision of where I wanted us to go and a blueprint for getting there, but getting there doesn’t always happen – you have to be patient and wait for it to unfold. Luckily things happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. We’ve won every series that we’ve played, it’s been a good year for the team and for my captaincy.”
Should they go on to win the series in England, which resumes with the third Test at The Oval on Thursday, it will feel very much as though their journey out of the darkness will be complete – regardless of any concerns over the merits of various individuals.
“We don’t always have the names that we used to have, and that is how I see our team’s strength is our focus on every guy in the team playing a small role to get us over the line,” said du Plessis. “We’ve never wanted to rely on big names. You get players that are consistent and put in big performances, but if you look at our last year and a half or so of Test cricket, there’s been unsung heroes all the time that have stepped up and made plays for the team when we most wanted them to.”
He admitted that without the presence of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Steyn and de Villiers on the team sheet, opposing teams were perhaps misjudging them. “I will be very happy to keep being the under-rated team, and by making sure that if we keep putting in small performances, every guy in the team, we put pressure on the big and strong teams around the world.”