The significance of the “Class of 2012” is that it was the year the Proteas were ranked No 1 in the world in the five-day format.
Considering where the team is now, the achievement is even greater as South African cricketers were the envy of the world during that period.
Du Plessis was very much a rookie in that environment, but the impact of sharing a dressing room with giants of the game such as Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn was not lost on him.
It instilled a sense of pride within him to always strive to do his absolute best and never ever give up when wearing the Proteas’ baggy green cap.
This was no more evident than on his debut in that year when he defied the might of Australia for 376 balls to save the second Test in Adelaide. It is also what drove him when he took over the captaincy reins when the team was in transition after most of the stalwarts had run their race.
Du Plessis was hell-bent on keeping South Africa at the top of the global perch, and particularly enjoyed the tussles against archenemy Australia.
He knew that he did not always have the artillery that Smith had at his disposal during his tenure, but he was determined to get the best out of the players that he had.
It is no coincidence that Kagiso Rabada, despite being still a baby on the international circuit, enjoyed his most fruitful period under Du Plessis’ leadership.
Du Plessis took the young fast bowler under his wing and showed him all the love – sometimes quite literally by planting kisses on his forehead – that he required, and Rabada responded with fiery performances.
Du Plessis did not ultimately have a fairy-tale ending as the last two years took their toll, but he still deserves to be remembered as a superb captain and a man who gave it all on the field.