Australia planning to tour South Africa but yet to finalise COVID-19 protocols

These case numbers haven’t been lost on the Australian players, with one source suggesting the tour would “probably not” go ahead. It’s also increasingly become apparent that bubble fatigue has begun to set in, with Steve Smith, for instance, saying on Tuesday he had not seen wife Dani in person for more than four months.

While Hockley’s immediate focus had been on dealing where the third and fourth Tests against India were to be played, having settled on Sydney and Brisbane amid strengthened protocols, CA needs to make a call within weeks on whether the team heads to South Africa.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis. The country has a significant COVID wave.Credit:Getty Images

“We are working through that as we speak in the background. We are in regular dialogue with Cricket South Africa. That planning is proceeding. Again, as we have always said, we will put the health and safety of all the participants the No.1 priority but that is work that is ongoing,” he said.

“Our starting position is that we, obviously, want to go but we are working through all the planning and protocols with Cricket South Africa. We will keep doing that over the next few weeks and we will making further announcements around that in due course.”

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Vice-captain Pat Cummins said this month the Australians would be “pretty nervous” about heading to South Africa unless there were tight regulations.

If that series is postponed, Australia’s top players would be free to head to New Zealand to complete a white-ball tour, which, as it stands, will be held concurrently with the South African trip.

While England went home, Sri Lanka opted to proceed with their tour, and were crunched by an innings and 45 runs in the first Test at Centurion, which finished on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka coach and South African-native Mickey Arthur said his team was “comfortable” with the protocols in place at the Irene Country Club, where the two nations are based through the two Tests. Locals says there is plenty of room to ensure social distancing, and all staff will remain on-site through the tour.

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There were no fans allowed into the ground for the first Test and that is set to continue in Johannesburg, when the series resumes on January 3.

The updated South African regulations allows for international sport to proceed against nations with a low or medium infection and transmission rate, which would include Australia.

The WACA has said it is keen to host the Proteas should the series be shifted.

Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.

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