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Exploring Sports in South Africa

There are many incredible things to discover about South Africa. But if you really want to find out what matters to most South African people, you need to understand their deep and passionate love of sports. Just about every sport is played and watched in the country and there is nothing a South African loves more than being outside, cheering on his or her team.

Some of the national teams are right up there with the best in the world and regularly feature highly on the Las Vegas online sportsbooks when the big events come around. With such a unique climate, South Africans tend to spend a lot of time outdoors and physical and sporting excellence is highly rated.

If you are thinking of making a trip to this beautiful country, there are many attractions and sites to visit. But do try to make time for a sports event or two during your vacation. You will never view sports in the same way again!


Like many of the most favored sports in South Africa, there is a colonial history attached. But soccer was traditionally most popular with Black South Africans. Now all South Africans play and love the game, with many of the best stadiums having been built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup that took place across the nation.

The national team is known as Bafana Bafana and has regularly appeared at continental and international tournaments. There is a thriving domestic scene as well though, with top teams competing in the African version of the Champions League. If you do get to a soccer game in South Africa you should prepare for the noise though. Fans like to play the vuvuzela (a plastic horn) throughout the match to help contribute to a spectacular atmosphere.


Rugby union was traditionally regarded as a sport for White South Africans but people from all ethnic groups have been part of the game in recent years. You will not be able to escape the green jerseys of the national team – known as the Springboks – which is one of the strongest in the world.

The sevens version of the game is also very popular in South Africa, with the national team also excelling in international competitions. Ellis Park in Johannesburg is where the national team play most of its games and very few opponents are able to deal with the high altitude, tough Springbok players, and the passionate home crowd.


Cricket may be regarded as a more genteel sport than rugby and soccer. But South African cricket fans are just as passionate about the game and you will not be in for a quiet day if you manage to get a ticket for a big match. Even if you are not sure of the rules of cricket, you should definitely try to get along to a game.

The Proteas, as the national sides are known, are routinely near the top of the international rankings and enjoy friendly rivalries with England and Australia in particular. Cricket is played all across the country but try to catch a game at Newlands, nestled at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town.


Soccer, rugby, and cricket are definitely the big three when it comes to sports in South Africa. But South Africans love to play and watch just about anything going – and swimming has always been a popular pastime. That is perhaps unsurprising, considering the country can boast some of the most stunning coastlines in the world.

The best South African swimmers will regularly compete for medals at the summer Olympic Games. But everyone loves heading out to the beach or their local swimming pool to get into the water. Just make sure that you remember to slap on the sun protection if you are hitting one of the many beaches.

Track and Field

Speaking of the Olympics. South Africa has a history of producing world-class athletes who have gone on to win gold medals at those events in recent years. Although there has yet to be a Games in Africa, South Africans have always done well when they have competed.

There is no one discipline of track and field – or athletics – that South Africans excel at. But, going along with the nation’s reputation for producing incredible athletes, ultra marathons are particularly popular here, with the Comrades and Two Oceans events attracting a large field – and thousands of spectators – every year.

Sport as an Identity

You will probably be aware of the history of South Africa. Its terrible and inhumane system of apartheid scarred the country and separated it from the rest of the world for a long time. In fact, South Africa was banned from the Olympics from 1964 until 1992 and national teams were also forbidden to compete in international competitions in a variety of other sports.

But when apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president of the country, sports became a way of unifying the nation as one. Mandela realized that only sports had the power to break down barriers and that they were more powerful than any government. His embracing of all sports in South Africa helped the nation through a tough time as well as forming an identity that all South Africans could claim.

Mandela’s famous appearance at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, where he presented the cup to the winning Springboks team, is celebrated as a moment where a new South Africa was born. Wearing the green jersey with the number six of captain Francois Pienaar on the back was a huge statement to the country and the world. Sports are in the DNA of just about every South African and if you do visit you should really make sure you involve yourself in sports in some way to get a feeling of how the people of this beautiful country live.

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