Africa Travel Blog

The Biggest Sporting Events in South Africa

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South Africa is a country with a proud history of sporting greatness. Due to its historical connections to Britain, South Africa’s most popular sports are association football (soccer), rugby and cricket and its athletes excel in all three.

South Africa is one of just a small number of countries that have teams competing in the world cup tournaments of football, rugby and cricket. Unsurprisingly, it is joined on this list by England, Australia and New Zealand.


Photograph by Craig Boudreaux

South Africa is a very successful rugby nation. It has won the Rugby World Cup on three occasions, the first in 1995, the second in 2007 and the third in 2019. It is one of just two countries to have won the competition three times, the other being the legendary New Zealand All Blacks. 

Rugby Union is South Africa’s third most popular sport, behind football and cricket. Millions of South Africans watch and play the sport, and is often used as a way to bond with friends. 

There are seven club competitions for rugby union in the country, the Currie Cup is the top flight domestic league, while teams also partake in international tournaments like Super Rugby and Pro14. This gives you plenty of opportunity to catch a game and make some new friends. 


Like many other African countries, including Kenya and Zambia, football (soccer) is South Africa’s most popular sport. It has 900 clubs (at varying levels), 1.5 million registered players and a further 3 million that play unofficially. 

Like in many European countries, South Africa uses a league system with a pyramid of divisions for its teams. The highest level of professional football in the country is the South African Premier Division (currently known as the Absa Premiership).

Football is watched right across the country, with fans enjoying games on TV at home and in public venues, as well as in person at stadia. 

One unique feature of football in South Africa is the vuvuzela, a long horn used by fans to make a loud noise when showing support for their team. The vuvuzela became internationally famous when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, giving the TV broadcasts a unique buzzing sound in the background that had not previously been experienced outside of the country. 

Aside from its unique musical instruments, South African football culture has created many new words to describe the team, the ball, the clothes worn by fans and the moves made by the players. Anyone planning to watch a game in the country should definitely learn the football language


Tennis is a very popular sport in most parts of the world, with TV networks spending large sums of money for the rights to broadcast major Grand Slams. 

In addition, bookmakers like FoxBet allow tennis fans to place bets on matches, popular wagers include which player will win the match and whether there will be a tiebreaker

Tennis is more popular in South Africa than in other parts of the continent. The country was host to the “South African Championship”, which was held between 1891 and 1967; the event later became the South African Open from 1968 until 2011. 

The event hasn’t been held for several years, but you can still find plenty of events in the country, a number of which are promoted by Tennis South Africa, who organise many tournaments throughout the year. 


Cricket is South Africa’s second most popular sport – Africa is one of only 12 countries that are allowed to play Test Cricket. 

South Africa’s national team, the Proteas, are known for having innovative approaches to coaching and training, as well as having strong fast bowlers. 

The sport was introduced to the country by the English in 1808, but it has since become popular among all South Africans.

Its domestic teams take part in four major club competitions, while the Proteas compete in the ICC Cricket World Cup, World Twenty20, Test Cricket and One Day International competitions. 

South Africans tend to pay more attention to cricket during major international competitions, but the sport gets less attention outside of these periods. 

Sport is a big part of South African culture. South Africans love nothing more than to watch, play and talk about their teams with friends and strangers alike. Football is by far the biggest sport, with rugby and cricket following behind, this is helped by the fact that the country is successful on the international stage for all three. 

If you find yourself visiting South Africa, make sure you make time for sport. 

Derek Cullen is an experienced overland tour leader in Africa. He is best known for cycling across Africa and writing about travel in Africa for many online media publications. If you would like advice or information for your trip to Africa, you can speak with him directly through the LiveChat box!

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