Rabada was given one demerit point for his celebration after dismissing England’s captain Joe Root on the first day of the Port Elizabeth Test, taking his tally over the past 24 months to four and landing him with an automatic one-match ban which he will serve in the fourth Test in Johannesburg.
South Africa coach Mark Boucher said after the news of the ban that he hope the ICC “don’t take the emotion out of the game” with overly strict sanctions, and du Plessis reiterated that he wanted Rabada to “show that South African spirit” on the pitch.
“You need things to go in your favour as a team when you are fighting every day,” du Plessis said. “Every session is pressure. You need stuff to go for you.
“The best KG is when he is that pumped up. I’ve seen it in his career – when he is fired up, he bowls better. He is a fantastic bowler when he is in the fight with the batter, when he is in the batter’s face and he has got a competition and it’s you against me. Then, you see KG at his best.
“We saw that. It was a big wicket for us. Joe Root is a fantastic player and to get him out, you could see how much it meant to KG.
“That’s the problem now. We ask him to show that emotion and show he wants to lead the attack, he wants to fight and show that South African spirit and then it gets taken away from him from by celebrating.”
Root, for his part, refused to be drawn on Rabada’s ban, though admitted it represented a “bonus” that South Africa would be missing “a world-class player”.
“If I say anything on this it’s going to get someone into trouble, so I am going to keep my mouth shut,” Root said.
“I don’t have any issue. He was obviously quite close to me. The decision was made that he was out of order. My concern was making sure I didn’t react. Thankfully I held my tongue, waited patiently until he’d finished and walked off.
“Most important for us as a team is that we respect decisions made on the field and we don’t put ourselves in a position where, as an England team, guys are missing games because of celebrations or send-offs. It’s obviously a bonus – he’s a world-class player. We’ll have to see what side they come up with and pay them the respect they deserve.”
Rabada’s ban is a major blow for South Africa ahead of the final Test. He is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series, with 14 in five innings, and has been du Plessis’ go-to man when he has needed to break a partnership in this series.
He has also been the only black African player in the side throughout the series, meaning his absence will further the pressure on the side to meet their transformation targets at the Wanderers. Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo (black African), Keegan Petersen and Beuran Hendricks (coloured) are not playing the round of domestic matches that started today and are all in contention for selection.
“It’s something that’s in the rules of the ICC – you are not allowed to be close or in the vicinity of the batter or whatever the rule is,” said du Plessis. “That’s unfortunate because now we go into a seriously important Test match without our best bowler and one more experienced player out of the team.
“In Test cricket you need experience, and to lose experience in KG makes it tough for me, it makes it tough for the team. I won’t say he has let the team down because we want to see that, it’s just he needs to find a different way to stick more within the rules of the game. One metre further away from the batter, then it’s possibly OK so draw a line on the pitch for him to stay away from.”