TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
FAF du Plessis has been shot in this movie before. So he brought a sure-fire media melter to his first press conference as South Africa’s appointed test captain: Giorgio, his dachshund.
Not that Du Plessis needed to win over a press pack who have not, as some Australian reporters tried to do last month, painted him as a too-smooth talking, ball-tampering fashion victim who has an unhealthy obsession with his own biceps.
Instead, journalists gathered at Newlands on Wednesday to talk to a man who has, in the absence of the official captain, AB de Villiers, led South Africa to victory in nine of their last 11 tests and one-day internationals.
Factor into the equation the series wins South Africa earned over New Zealand and Australia – twice, home and away – and retaining Du Plessis as captain became a no-brainer that even Giorgio wouldn’t have struggled to understand.
De Villiers himself saw the truth of it on Tuesday, when he gave up the test captaincy.
But he did not give up his vaunted position in Du Plessis’ opinion.
“AB is a better cricketer,” Du Plessis said. “So I have to make sure I use other things so I can make sure I get guys to buy into what I want them to buy into.
“AB just has to walk onto the field and it’s already happening.
“For me it’s harder work, I suppose.”
Happily, Du Plessis, who has captained teams all is cricket life, was up for that hard work.
“I love captaining, whether it’s tennis-ball, backyard cricket,” he said. “I think it brings the best out of me as a player.
“It’s about making sure I’m always there in the battle, and that gets me ready to play cricket.”
That said, Du Plessis, who until Tuesday was South Africa’s appointed T20 captain only, knew he was not in Kansas anymore.
“As a test captain it’s almost as if people are taking you seriously for the first time,” he said. “T20 is the fun and the X-factor of cricket.
“Test cricket is for me the most enjoyable time to be a captain because you have to work on plans for a long period of time.
“You have to stratergise on how you’re going to make sure you’re going to get guys out and continue to challenge guys over a long time.
“To finally have it now, as something that is set in stone, is a huge honour and I’ll be taking it very seriously.
“I’ll try and make sure that the stuff that we’ve been working on for the past six months to a year, that we don’t let those standards drop.
“If I keep pushing the guys to make sure we hit those standards we’ll be a consistent team.”
They were exactly that in their 5-0 thrashing of Australia in an ODI rubber in October.
Du Plessis warned South Africans not to get too used that level of success.
“You’re not going to win 5-0 every time – we’re going to have to get used to losing a few games,” he said.
“But for me it’s about making sure that the cricket side of things is almost a bonus. The stuff that happens off the field is where I want to make sure there’s a lot of time and effort going in – that it’s a happy team and a team that want to get better.
“But if you have one or two bad days at the office then you make sure you come back strong and make sure of those basics, that off-the-field stuff.
“It’s been proven over the last while. We went from a team that was really inconsistent (last season, when South Africa lost five of their eight tests) to, all of a sudden, a team that became consistent.”
Amid a rising crescendo of yowling and yapping at his feet, Du Plessis said, “What we want to achieve as a team is to be more aggressive. I’ll always look to take the aggressive approach. Hopefully that pays off more than it doesn’t.”
Then he bent down, scooped Giorgio into his arms and whispered sharply into his ear, “Wat sé jy (What do you say)?”
Honestly, what’s not to like?