South Africa's Test captaincy is not up for discussion and will return to AB de Villiers once he is match fit. De Villiers has been sidelined since July with an elbow injury and has been replaced by Faf du Plessis, who has yet to lose a match in his stand-in stint, but will have to hand the job back when de Villiers returns.
"At the moment it's clear to us that Faf is stand-in captain and AB is the current captain when he comes back, looking at his fitness and so on," Linda Zondi, South Africa's convener of selectors, said after the Hobart Test.
Although the board and not the selection panel appointed the captain, Zondi said the directive is likely to be to give de Villiers his job back once he is back on the park. When de Villiers underwent surgery in late September, he was diagnosed as needing eight to ten weeks of recovery time which should put him on track to play the home series in Sri Lanka in December-January. De Villiers will not have had any game time since mid-July, when he turned out for the Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League.
Zondi has not expressly said de Villiers will need to play some domestic cricket but has indicated that the panel would like him to have some game time. "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."
Should de Villiers need to play some cricket, his only opportunity will come in the domestic T20 competition. There was some talk of de Villiers joining the squad ahead of the day-night Test in Adelaide, which is preceded by a two-day warm-up game in Melbourne, in a bid to put himself in contention for the pink ball Test but both coach Russell Domingo and stand-in captain du Plessis had brushed off such suggestions. To that end, de Villiers had not traveled to Australia yet, and it appears unlikely that he will.
That would mean du Plessis has at least one more match in charge to add to a legacy against Australia that has already seen the team make history. Du Plessis led the ODI side to a first-ever 5-0 whitewash against Australia and a third successive Test series win in Australia. He has impressed with his skills as skipper and Zondi admitted the selectors were pleased with the way du Plessis had progressed.
"We nominated Faf to be a stand-in captain and he has done a very good job," Zondi said. "It was an easy process for us when the decision was made because he was already a T20 captain. So it was continuation. We are excited to have him as a leader.
"It just gives us more options. And we have other guys. Like I said, Hashim Amla, who also brings that experience. We are quite excited about how Faf has shown leadership but we are not going to be carried away."
It may be surprising to hear Zondi mention Amla among the leaders, especially after he stepped down as captain earlier in the year. However, Amla is the most experienced batsman, and in the absence of Dale Steyn, the most experienced member of the squad overall, and although he has only contributed 48 runs across the two Tests, has been involved in team discussions and at the forefront of celebrations.