Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, will miss this month's one-day series against Australia because of an ongoing elbow injury, coach Mickey Arthur said. Smith's participation in the final Test in Sydney which starts on Saturday is also not confirmed, though Arthur rated him a "90%" chance to play.
The spinner Johan Botha, who led the side during ODIs against Kenya and Bangladesh in November, will captain the one-day team and opener Neil McKenzie will stay on after the Tests as a standby batsman.
"It's unfortunate to lose your captain but we need to give him the best opportunity of being ready for the Test series in South Africa (against Australia starting on February 26 in Johannesburg)," Arthur said.
He said Smith had batted through enormous pain in the two Tests last month, getting by on cortisone injections. Smith's batting and captaincy have been a huge factor in South Africa winning their first-ever Test series in Australia. He scored 48, 108, 62 and 75 to lead his side to an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-Test contest.
Smith's early departure from the Australian tour gives him the chance to have blood taken from his arm and injected into his elbow to allow growth hormones to help heal the injury, Arthur said.
He said the operation hadn't been performed in South Africa before and may need to be done in Australia first, with a second injection back home in South Africa.
"We want him to get right for the home series and we think by sending him home straight away (after the Tests) and getting these injections, it will give him the best opportunity of being ready for the Test series in South Africa."
Australia's five-match one-day series against South Africa starts in Melbourne on January 16, preceded by two Twenty20 games on January 11 and 13 at the MCG and the Gabba.