Australia postpone South Africa tour because of ‘unacceptable’ Covid-19 risk

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Cricket Australia informs CSA that it had been left with no choice but to reschedule the tour

Australia’s three-Test tour of South Africa, scheduled to start in March, has been postponed, with Cricket Australia informing Cricket South Africa that the Covid-19 situation in South Africa has left it with “no choice” but to reschedule the tour.

“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 traveling 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,” Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia’s interim CEO, 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.

“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 bio-security plan, the risks are simply too great at this time. As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin, Tim and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised.”

South Africa has just passed the peak of its second wave of infections and restrictions were eased on February 2. However, the country is still recording an average of 5000 new cases a day and is battling a variant of the virus that spreads more easily.

Joe Connellan, interim CEO of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, said, “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.

“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.”

South Africa were hoping to host Australia at the Irene Country Club, where they had set up a bio-secure bubble for the festive-season Tests against Sri Lanka. Matches were set to be played at SuperSport Park and the Wanderers with the Test series scheduled to start on March 3 and finish on March 25. The country club is considered a “lifestyle” hotel, with access to a dam, driving range and various outdoor activities. ESPNcricinfo understands that Cricket Australia was also in talks to build an additional makeshift gymnasium on the property and both CSA and the country club were doing all they could to accommodate the touring party’s requests.

More to follow…

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