But skipper Faf du Plessis said South Africa had to get ready for a future where former captain de Villiers no longer played Test cricket. "We all know how good AB is, and we missed him, but we've spent too much time talking about 'when is AB going to come back?'," he explained.
"The hope of him coming back is something I think we need to move past... If AB comes back it's a huge bonus... but I don't expect it," du Plessis added.
du Plessis has liked what he's heard about potential new Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson.
The current England bowling coach, Gibson has been tipped to succeed Russell Domingo, whose contract with Cricket South Africa expired after the end of a tour that finished with a 3-1 series defeat following England's 177-run win in the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Monday.
"I have asked the England team for their thoughts on Ottis, and they've given me positive feedback," du Plessis told reporters after a reverse that completed a tough tour for South Africa, who also suffered one-day and Twenty20 series losses to England, as well as a disappointing first-round exit in the Champions Trophy.
"I believe (England's) players are good judges, and will be honest with their reflections on a guy (and whether) he'll work as a head coach.
"They've said some really good, positive things about him.
"Personally, if he is going to be the guy, we have to get to learn about each other first."
Meanwhile England head coach Trevor Bayliss indicated he was getting ready for life without 48-year-old former West Indies head coach Gibson as a member of his backroom staff.
"I only found out from you guys (the press) -- that's the first we'd heard of it," said Bayliss of British media reports linking Gibson with the South Africa post. "There's nothing been finalised yet."
The Australian added: "I'm at a loss at the moment whether it's a go-ahead -- we haven't heard for sure.
"By all accounts, it sounds like it."
Meanwhile du Plessis said he had held talks with CSA chiefs about the future identity of the South Africa coach.
"There were conversations," he said.
"The first was 'were we happy with Russell?', and the guys said yes.
"Then it was the panel's decision to try and see if there was someone they could see who would possibly take the team forward."
He added: "I just gave my input, where I said I think Russell is doing a good job at the moment... but if there is someone who can challenge the team more, by all means go and look who's out there.
"That decision will only be made, as far as I know, when it gets to the board."
This was a difficult tour for Domingo, who had to fly home after his mother was involved in a car accident and return again when she died of her injuries.
But du Plessis said the upheaval and general uncertainty over Domingo's future could not account for a poor run of results.
"I can't use that as an excuse. The coaching staff have been brilliant and they haven't been sidetracked by what was going on.
"If it ended for Russell like this then it's a disappointing way to send him off with the players not performing.
"He's been a crucial part of what we've been doing for the last while and we didn't play well."
AB de VilliersAB de Villiers in Testsdale steynEngland vs South Africa 2017Faf du PlessisVernon Philander
First Published: August 8, 2017, 10:20 AM IST