South African Sports – What Do Local People Enjoy? Facts and History

Sports is very closely followed by the people of South Africa, and they are highly talented in many. In South African sports of different races come together, supporting and cheering their favorite sports teams and players.

A Little Bit of History

Due to Racial politics, more commonly known as Apartheid, South Africa was banned from participating in any International sporting events from 1948 – 1992. They were not allowed to conduct any sporting events inviting foreign countries either. This put a big delay in the growth and careers of many South African sports persons. Some even migrated to other countries to keep their sporting dreams alive and achieve them.

Once the Apartheid came to an end, South Africa started making its presence very well known and strongly felt in the International sporting community. Some of the world-famous sports stars are from this country.

Sports Popular In South Africa

South African flag colors

While all sports have a place in South Africa with a good amount of participation, a few surpass the others when it comes to popularity and love for the sport.

Three of the most common and popular sports in South Africa are:

  1. Football
  2. Rugby
  3. Cricket

South Africa is one of the very few countries worldwide to have both hosted and participated in the world cups of all three sports.

Football In South Africa

Football, also known as soccer, is by far the most loved sport in South Africa – both in terms of participation and viewership. As the best south african betting sites confirm it also is the most popular sports to bet on in this county. The men’s team is known as “Bafana Bafana” (the boys), and the women’s team is known as the “Banyana Banyana” (the girls).

SAFA – South African Football Association is the governing body for the sport in the country. Premier Soccer League (PSL) is the organization that runs the South African Premier Division and National Football Division. These are two professional divisions of the country.

The main domestic cups played in the country are the Nedbank Cup, Telcom Knockout, and the MTN8. The two most famous and rival teams are The Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates from Soweto.

South Africa has participated in three FIFA world cups and has even hosted the tournament in 2010. However, it did not qualify in any of the three.

The matches are heavily crowded, and people just come together to support their favorite teams. All in all, football is the favorite sport for South Africans of any descent.

Rugby In South Africa

Traditionally this used to be the most loved sport by the South Africans of white descent. Today, people from all races play this sport in the country.

The country’s national rugby union team is called the Springboks. However, the Rugby union has not been a part of the Olympics since 1924. The South African Rugby Union is the governing body of this sport.

South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It has won three World Cups so far in the sport – 1995, 2007and 2019. The only other country to have a similar victory is New Zealand.

Several South African-born Rugby players have and continue to represent other countries. This sport has roots dating back to the 1870s. Today, there are more than 400,000 registered rugby players in South Africa.

Rugby Sevens 

Rugby Sevens is another version of Rugby itself, where only 7 players play the game instead of the usual 15. The game is played for 7-minute halves instead of the usual 40-minute halves played in the regular Rugby team of 15. Apart from these major differences, there are other alterations to the rules, especially regarding the time limits.

The Sevens World Series has been gaining popularity, and the South African team is very famous too. The Sevens World Series consists of 10 events, of which South Africa always hosts one. This has made the sport more popular among the public and has many people thronging the stadiums to watch the match.

Cricket In South Africa

Nicknamed “The Proteas,” the South African cricket team is one of the top teams in the entire world. Cricket was very famous among the British Diaspora and the Indian South African communities. However, over the years, it has gained popularity and is being closely followed by people of all races in the country.

It is one of the countries that have been sanctioned to play the infamous test cricket. Initially, the team had a majority of white players. Efforts are being made to increase the number of non-white players.

The team is very famous for its fast bowlers and fielders. They are feared for their bowling and have consistently played well in the test match series for the last 5 years. South Africa has hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003 and the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007.

Despite having a great team and some highly qualified players feared by other teams, South Africa has never been able to win a Cricket World Cup. The team had some very close calls, resulting in very thrilling and crowd-drawing matches that sent them home.

Other South African Sports

Apart from the three widely followed and loved sports mentioned above, South Africa is quite famous for other sports. Every four years, it hosts the Saddle Seat World Cup, which is the competition of the highest level for Saddle Seat Equitation riders.

Some of the other international sporting events that are hosted in the country include canoeing, Chess, Cycling, Hockey, Golf, etc.

A number of South African athletes have won numerous medals at the Olympics and Paralympic games, even setting world records, especially in the running. They are even home to world Triathlon champions.


In recent years, South African sports teams and sportspeople have more exposure and opportunities to participate in world-level sporting events. As the country excels in sports and hosts many sporting events, the number of spectators has been increasing as well.




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