Steyn has been ruled out of the game due to a shoulder injury sustained during the Indian Premier League and leaves a considerable gap in the Proteas’ game plan.
Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius will line up in the 35-year-old’s stead, but Du Plessis did not paper over the setback.
“It is a big loss to our team. A fit Dale Steyn makes our bowling attack a very, very strong one,” he said.
“It will take a little bit of chopping and changing to get a balance that we think can take on England. One of our X-factors, potentially, is that we have a really, really strong attack in terms of pace: Steyn, (Kagiso) Rabada, (Lungi) Ngidi is a real, real threat in English conditions.
“That’s Plan A for the World Cup in terms of our balance, what we’re looking to achieve. Now it’s just a real reshuffle and looking to Plan B and C.”
With Steyn sidelined an even greater share of the burden will fall on Rabada, the natural heir to the veteran’s throne and the danger man for England’s batsman to watch.
“He’s a world-class athlete and what people like him do best is they want a stage to perform,” added Du Plessis.
“This World Cup will be a stage for KG to once again show the world what kind of bowler he is. He doesn’t need any guidance from me.
“I can try and speak to him a little bit from a tactical point of view but I certainly am not trying to tell him how to bowl. He knows much more than I do.”
Du Plessis’s wider role is to become the man who delivers South Africa’s first World Cup trophy and puts to bed the bad memories of tournaments past.
He will have been relieved that the ‘c’ word which follows the team whenever they head to knockout competitions – chokers – went unspoken on this occasion and appeared happy that expectations are lower than previous occasions.
If they are to do well under Du Plessis in the coming weeks it seems like perspective will be their guiding principle rather than obsession.
“Cricket is a very important aspect of all of our lives, but it’s not everything,” he said.
“You know, in life there’s a lot bigger things than winning and losing games of cricket. Perhaps that has changed for me, the fact that I’m no longer desperate.
“I want to win cricket games but I don’t need to win them. Hopefully that can filter through, because no one taught me that four, five years ago, playing in these events.
“Hopefully that helps the guys on the team feel just a little bit more relaxed. If players are a little bit more free, and can just play the best version of themselves, then that’s great. That’s all I’m looking for.”