It was another twist in a tale of two cricketers who were schoolboy team-mates at the Afrikaans Boys High school in Pretoria.
Back then it was Du Plessis who was the captain of the first XI, although De Villiers was always the more obvious future star, playing for South African Schools in his last two years at school, while Du Plessis missed selection.
But Du Plessis earned a place on a South African under-19 tour of England in 2003 and was made vice-captain to Imraan Khan, who played in one Test for South Africa in the 2008/09 season.
De Villiers was playing international cricket barely two years after leaving school and was named captain of South Africa’s One-Day International and Twenty20 teams soon after Gary Kirsten took over as coach two years ago.
Du Plessis made slower progress, making his ODI debut two seasons ago.
But he quickly earned recognition as one of the leaders in a team environment — a reputation which soared when he made a match-saving century on his Test debut against Australia in Adelaide this season.
When De Villiers sought a rest ahead of a Test series against New Zealand, Du Plessis captained the South African Twenty20 team in three matches during December, and now he will be in charge for the remaining two one-day internationals against the Kiwis, in Kimberley Tuesday and Potchefstroom Friday.
Left-handed batsman David Miller was added to the squad to fill the gap in personnel left by De Villiers.
In addition to De Villiers being suspended, the South African players, already stung by a surprise one-wicket defeat against the Black Caps in Paarl on Saturday, will lose their entire match fee after it was found the home side were six overs short of their target even after time allowances were taken into account.
De Villiers admitted he had failed to ensure an acceptable over rate for the match, which finished more than half an hour late.
Match referee David Boon imposed the suspension after De Villiers pleaded guilty to the offence.