CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - AB de Villiers has resigned as South Africa's test captain, opening the way for childhood friend Faf du Plessis to take over on a permanent basis.
De Villiers, 32, has been struggling with an elbow injury for six months and is out of the three-match home test series against Sri Lanka that starts on Dec. 26.
"The interests of the team must always outweigh the interests of any individual including me," he said in a Cricket South Africa news release on Monday.
Du Plessis was praised for leading South Africa to a 2-1 test series victory in Australia last month in the absence of De Villiers but was found guilty of tampering with the ball in the second test in Hobart, a verdict he will appeal against on Dec. 19.
De Villiers was appointed captain in January following the resignation of Hashim Amla but led the side in just two tests against England at the start of the year, and also missed a home series win over New Zealand in August.
"It was a fantastic honour for me to be asked to captain the test side but I have missed two series," said De Villiers.
"Following the squad's outstanding performances in Australia, it is clearly in the greater interests of the team that Faf du Plessis should be confirmed as permanent test captain.
"I have known Faf for almost 20 years, ever since we played in the same school side at Afrikaans Hoer Seunskool, and he will have my unequivocal support."
De Villiers is not targeting a return to the side for the one-day series against Sri Lanka that starts at the end of January.
"AB's left elbow is much improved but he is still regaining the last few degrees of straightening," said team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee.
"Fitness to play requires a full range of elbow movement and this may take another three to four weeks to achieve. He will be unavailable for the test series against Sri Lanka and will target a return for the ODI series."
Du Plessis will be the third permanent captain for South Africa since the retirement of long-serving Graeme Smith in March 2014.
Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Jimenez