Sport in South Africa

A PASSION FOR SPORTS

Lively soccer fans with a Vuvuzela and homemade guitar

South Africa is a sports crazy nation – it’s practically a religion, the most popular spectator sports being soccer, rugby and cricket. International matches and big local matches are well worth seeing live, not only to watch the game but also to catch the vibe - experience the zeal and absolute dedication of fans.

Sport is big news in South Africa and newspapers followed by other media are awash with all the shplurb about controversial selections, scandals and feats of brilliance - there's no getting away from it!

Soccer / Football

Football or soccer as it is known in South Africa is the most popular game and is starting to attract serious money. It used to be the Cinderella sport in the bad old days of Apartheid and reflects the country’s history and the struggle for democracy.

Bafana Bafana in action

Football was segregated by the past regime and became a focus for the non-racial sport movement. In 1991 it became the first sport to become unified and has captivated the hearts of all South Africans.

South Africa is presently building 5 new stadiums dedicated to football for the 2010 FIFA World Cup - a jubilant first for Africa and a country that until now has never had a stadium devoted to football. Football teams had to rent venues for their matches in the Apartheid era, unlike the rugby and cricket teams who played in dedicated stadiums.

Gauteng is the spirit and core of South African football and all the big clubs share the same grounds, which has created quite a different fan culture to that of devotees in Europe. The big teams from Soweto are Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates whose spirited games can be hot-blooded and usually have the nation gripped. Soweto football crowds are normally good-humoured and festive so joining them is quite conceivable and fun - “whities” shouldn’t feel uneasy about going to a game.

The professional season in South Africa is between August and May with teams participating in the Premier Soccer League and a few other competitions. The Chiefs and the Pirates have a nationwide following and their contests are a colourful climax of the Premier Soccer League’s matches. Contributing to the jovial atmosphere of football games are the unique sounds of the Vuvuzela, a plastic horn along with singing and countless other homemade instruments.
South Africa’s national squad, affectionately nicknamed Bafana Bafana qualified for the 1998 and 2002 World Cup Finals and will have the privilege of competing in the 2010 World Cup on home soil.

Related Football Links:
FIFA.com - the Official web site of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and 2010 FIFA World Cup.
PREMIER SOCCER LEAGUE - the official website of the Premier Soccer League with news and info about the teams, fixtures and results.
TELKOM KNOCKOUT - a snazzy new website dedicated to the Premier Soccer League and Telkom Knockout Series.

Rugby

Rugby fan
Springbok supporter

Rugby is a great passion and tantamount to a religion amongst the “whites” of South Africa, especially with Afrikaners. South Africa is amazingly good and competitive at rugby - if the national squad, the Springboks, lose a game then supporters are plunged into depression for at least a week. In fact, they consider it their birthright to win every game except against the New Zealand All Blacks, for whom they have great respect!

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was hosted in South Africa and won by the Springboks. The greatest triumph and nationwide blessing came when Nelson Mandela donned the number six jersey of ‘Bok captain Francois Pienaar to present the cup. This was a major milestone for the history of South African rugby which had long been an exclusively "white" sport.

Inter-regional and international games are of a very high standard and definitely worth watching. The major regional competition is the Currie Cup, with provincial teams playing on weekends (March – October).
The Super 14 is an exciting annual competition between regional teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia with matches played in all 3 countries. Catch the action in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban from late February till the end of May. Port Elizabeth, George, East London and Bloemfontein also host the occasional game.
The Tri-Nations is an annual international competition involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Games are played in all 3 countries from June to August – be sure to book well in advance if you’re planning to attend.

Related Rugby Links:
SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY - a smorgasboard of information and various rugby related topics ranging from tournaments, fixtures, news, galleries, forums and rugby history.
The Springbok Rugby Team & rugby history in South Africa

Cricket

Of all the former “white” sports, cricket was the trail blazer when it came to social and political reform with training, support and talent discovery programmes for disadvantaged communities. Fast bowler, Makhaya Ntini became the first black player for the national team, the Proteas, in 1998.

South African cricket lost its halo and took a major blow in 2000, however, when the Proteas captain, golden boy Hansie Cronje, was discovered to have accepted bribes to lose matches. The Proteas,  one of the world’s top teams, are still struggling to rise above the scandal and gain the credibility of cricket in South Africa.

International tests and one day series take place in the summer season between November and March and are highly recommended. National competitions are the four-day Supersport Series and the one-day matches, the Standard Bank Cup. Games are played throughout the week whilst the 11 provincial teams strive for national supremacy.

Related Cricket Links:
Cricket South Africa – the Proteas (check out the players profiles), World Cup 2007, domestic and international competitions.

International Cricket Council – the international fixtures and 2007 ICC World Cup.