Faf du Plessis says South Africa are unlikely to ever see AB de Villiers back in action for the Test side.
De Villiers has not featured in the longest form of the game since January last year, as he battles with a hectic international and franchise schedule.
He was absent for the Proteas' 3-1 series defeat in England, sealed with a 177-run loss at Old Trafford on Monday, and his good friend Du Plessis suggested his Test days were over as South Africa seek to solve their problems at the top of the order.
South Africa host Bangladesh for two Tests starting next month before Australia and India visit in 2018, but Du Plessis believes De Villiers is no longer a viable option.
"I would love AB to play! But we spend too much time talking about AB coming back, the hope of him coming back is something we need to move past," he told a media conference.
"Those players you don't just replace. If AB comes back it's a huge bonus but I don't expect him to come back to the Test team."
Du Plessis also lamented the disrupted series for Vernon Philander, who tormented England's batsmen but was badly affected by illness and injury - the latter of which ruled him out of the fourth Test altogether.
"You need Vern, let's be honest, you need your best players," Du Plessis said. "Duanne [Olivier] bowled really well here but Vern is one of the world's best in these conditions.
"Not to have him is very frustrating. Vern needs to work on his fitness. It's happened too often that he doesn't play a full series. I've spoken to him about that and he knows he needs to improve that. Australia and India at home, we need Vern to play those matches."
England bowling coach Ottis Gibson has been heavily linked with becoming South Africa's head coach to replace Russell Domingo, and Du Plessis revealed discussions with opposition players provided an encouraging assessment.
"I have asked the England team on their thoughts and they gave positive feedback," Du Plessis said. "If he is going to be the guy, we have to learn about each other first."