Popular sports in South Africa

9 September 2020 | , ,

On any given weekend, the South African sports fan is not short on options when it comes to choosing what sport to tune into. South Africans are a proud and passionate nation when it comes to sports. The unifying factor of sport has been the greatest asset for a diverse country still coming to terms with its identity post the Apartheid era. While South African’s have realised success on the global stage in a large array of sports, the ‘Big Three’ are by far the most popular sports in South Africa. Football, cricket and rugby are responsible for the lion’s share of the nation’s sporting obsession.

Football in South Africa

About South African football

Football, or soccer as it is referred to in South Africa, is the sport with the largest following. Over two million people play football, while the fan base is exponentially larger. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) is the largest and most successful tournament of its kind on the African continent. The league has been the breeding ground for many a South African football star.

Many local players, with their roots in the PSL, have found success in the English Premier League. Players such as Lucas Radebe, Benni McCarthy and Steven Pienaar have all enjoyed fruitful careers in the grandest league of them all. Back on the local front, the PSL is the main league from which players are selected for call ups to play for their country.

Bafana Bafana

The national team is affectionately known as Bafana Bafana. The term meaning ‘Go boys! Go boys!’ was coined by fans in the early nineties. The team has had mixed success over the years. In 1996 Bafana Bafana won the African Cup of Nations that South Africa hosted. The team qualified and took part in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup. In 2010 South Africa hosted the event, this being a first for Africa. Bafana Bafana again took part and were responsible for scoring the opening goal of the tournament.

Since then, the national team has endured some lean years, not qualifying for any subsequent World Cups. However, the football fan base and the sport’s popularity in South Africa has continued to grow since hosting the global showpiece.

South African cricket

About South African cricket

Cricket in South Africa is the Summer sport with the largest following. The sheer amount of cricket to play is substantial. School, club and provincial games fill the sporting calendar in the Summer season.

For the non-playing fans, there are countless games and formats which they can follow. Test, one day and twenty- twenty cricket occur on a regular basis.

Every year, various international touring teams, such as Australia, England and India visit to compete against the South African national team. Some of the greatest rivalries in cricket have occurred over the years on South African soil.

National team

The national cricket team is referred to as the Proteas. Named after the national flower of South Africa, the team has been one of the top cricketing nations for the last 29 years.

While being regulars within the top five world rankings for One Day International (ODI) and test cricket, a win in a major tournament still eludes the Proteas. With world class players such as Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn in the team over the years, the team has not managed to replicate their out of tournament form when it counts. The Proteas have only ever reached the semi-final stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

Arguably the team’s greatest victory came against Australia in 2006. The Proteas managed to chase down their opponent’s total, to reach the record score (at the time) of 438 runs. This game is still fondly remembered in South African cricketing circles. One feels that South Africa need to replicate this sort of performance if they are to finally realise the dream of winning the Cricket World Cup.

South African Rugby

SA rugby explained

We are still riding on the high from the success of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Rugby is arguably the most successful mainstream sport from a South African perspective. This success has inspired many a young schoolboy to dream of playing for the South African national team, the Springboks.

Played and supported throughout the country, and across cultures, rugby in South Africa can at times feel like a religion. The Currie Cup, the domestic rugby tournament played between provinces has been around since 1891. Winning the trophy in this current day and age remains a prestigious achievement


The Springbok name originated in 1906, during the first international rugby tour to the United Kingdom by the South African team. The captain at the time decided on the Springbok as the emblem that should be present on the players jerseys. It has remained this way ever since.

Three times world champions (in 1995, 2007 & 2019) and multiple winners of various competitions and tours, the Springboks are highly regarded among the global rugby fraternity. The team experienced a few wayward years from 201 onwards. However, over the last while under the guidance of coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi, the team returned to the top of world rugby in 2019.

The future looks bright for South African rugby, and the focus is now on the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in 2021.

COVID-19 has been a difficult time for sports fans, but if anything, the passion for one’s favourite sport has only increased over this time. In South Africa, football, cricket and rugby fans are eagerly awaiting the day that that the most popular sports return to live action – and with it the online betting variety.

You like to participate in online betting on the popular sports in South Africa? The best starting point is our TOP 10 listings of licensed operators and well as our detailed reviews for each operator we can recommend.

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