Do Proteas have a succession plan?

AB de Villiers (Getty Images)
AB de Villiers (Getty Images)

Cape Town - When Joe Root was named England Test captain in February, absolutely nobody was surprised. 

It was simply the next step in England cricket's succession plan. 

Alastair Cook had led the side for more Tests than any other captain in England history (59) and the next logical step was to appoint Root, even though Cook is still playing.

It was a decision that the England brains trust reportedly planned meticulously, with the start of the 2017/18 season pinpointed as the perfect time to pass the baton. 

Right now, South Africans could be forgiven for not looking past the second Test against England at Trent Bridge, but there are a number of players in the current set-up and across all three formats who do not have more than a couple of years of international cricket left in them. 

Dale Steyn (34), AB de Villiers (33), Faf du Plessis (32), Vernon Philander (32), Hashim Amla (34), JP Duminy (33) Morne Morkel (32), Imran Tahir (38), Farhaan Behardien (33) ... all of these players are getting on and it is hard to see many of them, if any, playing beyond 2019. 

More significantly, these are players who the Proteas have been heavily relying on for a long time. 

Steyn is considered one of the greatest bowlers ever with the ball, while the same can be said of De Villiers and Amla with the bat. Philander's contribution to the Test side has been immense, Tahir's contribution to the limited overs sides equally so, while Du Plessis is the only one in the current set-up displaying any real leadership. 

With both Du Plessis and De Villiers missing from the first Test at Lord's, the Proteas were given a glimpse of the future and what they saw would have been unsettling. 

Is the depth there to ensure that, once all of these big names have packed it in, South African cricket will still be as competitive as it has been for the past two decades?

There are some names that provide comfort. 

Kagiso Rabada (22), Quinton de Kock (24), Andile Phehlukwayo (21), Aiden Markram (22), Theunis de Bruyn (24) ... there is a lot to be excited about. 

But what of future captains? Who will open the batting in each of the formats in 2020? Are we thinking about this now, or are we just trying to keep our heads above water?

"In terms of going forward from now until 2019, yes we do have a succession plan," CSA convenor of selectors Linda Zondi told Sport24.

"I don't think I want to be in a position where we discuss it. It's a process that we have to go through, but we definitely do have a succession plan post-2019.

"We have players that we feel are good enough to take through, both in the SA 'A' side and the Proteas."

On the recent SA 'A' tour of England, Markram was given the captaincy for the two first-class matches while 27-year-old Khaya Zondo - still uncapped at international level - led in the limited overs matches. 

De Villiers, current captain of the ODI team, has reshuffled his entire workload to ensure that he is in prime condition heading into the 2019 World Cup. 

That tournament will be his last, and after its completion South African cricket will be walking into very unfamiliar territory. 

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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