The Proteas are keen to match the form which saw them remain undefeated away from home for nine years.
The Proteas begin the rebuilding steps towards the legacy they once held away from home with the start of the three-Test series against Australia at the Waca on Thursday. They ended their nine-year undefeated run away from home, the longest by any team, with the 3-0 loss to India last year, and have earmarked this series as the start of a journey towards reclaiming the status.
Du Plessis says that his side has to keep their togetherness amongst the team if they want to step out of the shadow of the previously No 1 Proteas squad.
‘You can’t just rely on playing well under your home conditions,’ he said to the media on Wednesday. ‘Teams that are No 1 also need to play the best away from home, that is something that we need to start building up again. We were declining in our performances after we lost the number one position.
‘We are on a new journey as team,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to be that team of the past, we have our own goals that we want to achieve. I think that was one of the most important things we needed to change as a team. For a year we were playing in the shadow of the team that used to be number one and with a lot of personalities missing it was difficult to do that.
‘We have a better direction of where we want to go as a team, we started well against New Zealand, we won that Test series in South Africa, but this will be a test to see how we go against a strong Australian team.’
This will be Du Plessis’ second series as Test captain and will have a rare opportunity to become only the second South African captain, after Graeme Smith, to win a series against Aussies Down Under.
The 32-year-old admits that although he has grown in the leadership role since his appointment, he will be open to some advice from Smith and AB de Villiers, who have been supportive on the side-lines.
‘That’s the great thing about captaincy, I’ve found out that you never stop learning,’ he said. ‘I’m extremely grateful that I have been put in a situation where I have been given the Test team when I am slightly older, a bit more mature and understand myself as a leader a bit better. There are a few things that have worked well and a few that haven’t worked well.
‘I think it’s also different depending on what team you play with,’ he continued. ‘Right now we are a team that wants to improve and wants to get better. We have huge learning heads on our shoulders, there are no egos in our team, if you have guys like that it is very easy to captain. I also find that I learn a lot from the players, I find that it’s important for a captain to put himself out there and live what he wants from the players from the front.’