Faf du Plessis has admitted he would not be opposed to becoming South Africa's permanent Test captain. Du Plessis is standing in for AB de Villiers, a long-time friend who is expected to return from an elbow injury for the Sri Lanka series in the home summer, and has racked up results that will make it difficult for his influence to be ignored.
Under du Plessis, South Africa beat New Zealand in a Test series at home - their first since the disappointing summer of 2016-17 - and inflicted a first-ever 5-nil ODI series whitewash on Australia. They have also now won a third successive Test series in Australia, prompting calls for du Plessis to continue as captain.
"I would. I've always said it. I love captaining. It's something I really enjoy doing," du Plessis said. "It's important to make sure that with all the stuff we talk about our culture, as a captain you live that and lead from the front. I am enjoying it at the moment. However long it continues, I will always do it."
Du Plessis has also received support from Ian Chappell. "The captaincy has been terrific. South Africa would be well advised to keep Faf du Plessis on as captain because he's a guy that is buoyed by that responsibility," Chappell said.
Since taking over, du Plessis has scored 217 runs at 43.40, only marginally more than his overall average of 41.28, but has looked a more confident batsmen. Du Plessis was dropped for the last Test of the 2015-16 summer against England after a run of poor form but returned in de Villiers' place for the New Zealand series, and immediately showed the kind of determination and technique that he displayed in Australia four years ago.
At the same time, Chappell also thinks du Plessis being retained in the role will free de Villiers up."I'm not convinced AB de Villiers wants that responsibility I think he might be happy to see Faf keep the job. AB seems to put himself out in the field - mid-on, mid-off and those sort of positions - put him back in the slips because he's an unbelievable slip fielder. Not only do you retain a very good captain in Faf, you bring back a terrific batsman who doesn't have that responsibility on his shoulders and you get one of the best fielders in cricket in the slips. Win-win all round," he said.
De Villiers does, in fact, have a strong desire to lead. He made public his disappointment when Hashim Amla was appointed ahead of him in 2014 and accepted the job temporarily when Amla stepped down in January this year. After two Tests as a stand-in captain, de Villiers was appointed full-time in February but has not had a chance to lead in a Test since then.
He has given no indication of an intention to pass on the armband although he acknowledged du Plessis' leadership skills during the first Test. "Top captaincy by @faf1307," de Villiers tweeted. "Once again, not much to say when a team performs like that! Pure class. #ProteaFire at its best!!! Enjoy the celebrations guys- Umlilooooooo."
Although ruled out for the entire Australia tour, de Villiers told FIVE AA radio that he hoped to make himself available for the day-night Test in Adelaide. At the time, he was considering flying to Hobart to prepare during the second Test. De Villiers has not travelled to Australia and Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, confirmed he did not think de Villiers would play in the third Test. That will delay a decision South Africa will have to make about how to make room for de Villiers in their line-up.