A torrential downpour some 45 minutes before the scheduled start was followed by drizzle which persisted throughout the day.
It was the first time a whole day's play had been lost to rain at the ground since 1983, when Australia's Test against Pakistan was similarly disrupted.
South Africa were set to resume on 255 for two in their first innings with Hashim Amla (90) and Jacques Kallis (84) closing on centuries.
The tourists have been reduced to 10 batsmen after JP Duminy was ruled out for the series after rupturing his Achilles tendon in training on Friday.
Duminy was also expected to play a key role with his off-spin after specialist spinner Imran Tahir was dropped from the side to make way for a fourth pace bowler.
The team confirmed that Duminy would be replaced in the touring party but exactly who would join the squad would not be announced before the end of the match.
South Africa's number one Test ranking is on the line in the series, which continues after Brisbane with Tests in Adelaide and Perth.