It is unclear when the South Africa series will be able to be held due to the number of fixtures now backlogged on the international calendar as a result of the global health crisis.
It had been reported the series could be moved to Western Australia if South Africa was not deemed safe but the WACA had not been contacted as of Tuesday afternoon regarding a back-up option.
The decision means Australia’s Test side will not be seen on the field until the start of next summer’s Ashes series.
South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, with a more contagious mutant strain circulating in the community.
“Due to the public health situation in South Africa, which includes a second wave and new variant of the virus, and following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” CA’s interim CEO Nick Hockley said.
“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.
‘Despite best efforts to agree a biosecurity plan, the risks are simply too great at this time.’
“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
“However, we have been consistent since the start of the pandemic that the health and safety of our people is always our number one priority and unfortunately, despite best efforts to agree a biosecurity plan, the risks are simply too great at this time.
“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin [Langer], Tim and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised.
“We look forward to playing the series against CSA at a date to be confirmed in due course and we send CSA and the people of South Africa our very best wishes for a successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to normality soon.”
The Australian Cricketers Association welcomed CA’s move, saying it was the right call given the situation in South Africa.
“While disappointing for both playing groups and cricket lovers all over the world, this is a prudent decision considering the prevalence and virulence of the COVID-19 strain in South Africa,” interim chief Joe Connellan said.
“The Australian players were ready for the contest with South Africa, especially to support South African cricket at this time with the added challenge of making the final of the ICC Test Championship.
“But this is the right call given the COVID data coming out of South Africa. It’s a decision based on the advice of the medical and health experts and that’s why the ACA supports it.
“The ACA offers its assistance to CA in exploring new options with Cricket South Africa for this series to be rescheduled.”
Australia last year completed one-day international and Twenty20 series in England without any dramas. The England and Wales Cricket Board, however, had proven its ability to conduct a safe tour after hosting the West Indies in biosecure hubs.
Though Manchester was in lockdown when the Australians visited, there was no mutant strain in the community and the tourists had fewer logistical issues by staying at a hotel at the ground.
England’s tour of South Africa last year ended in acrimony after the visitors returned two positives tests but subsequent independent analysis found them to be false positives.
CA, having staged a series against India worth $300 million, had wanted to tour as it recognises the need for national boards to support each other in order to keep the international game afloat.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald