Sports in South Africa – What are the Most Popular?

Popular Sports in South Africa

Sport in South Africa, much like many other countries, is very popular. It manages to cross the social divide and appeal to people of all ages and class. Certain sports are very popular in specific countries, such as cricket and football in the United Kingdom and American football and basketball in the US. South Africa also has a number of sports it happens to be passionate about. And its rich sporting history is a major source of national pride. Particularly since the country’s multi-decade international sporting ban was lifted. Sport gambling also became legal in the early 2000s, and this has helped to make supporting cricket (The Proteas), football (Bafana Bafana) and rugby (The Springboks) even more exciting.

Ask any country’s residents what the biggest sport is and there will probably be a number of different answers. Ask a South African what the biggest is and there will be very few arguments that the following list are the biggest.

Rugby

Possibly the biggest in South Africa is rugby, with more than 430,000 registered players. It has also played an important role in heralding the country’s new, post-apartheid era. In 1995, it hosted the first major international sporting event, the Rugby World Cup and the National Team were able to shrug off its underdog status to be the tournament winners. One of the most iconic images in South African history is that of Nelson Mandela presenting rugby captain Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup.

In 2007, The Springboks won another World Cup and the country has five teams participating in the Super Rugby competition along with teams from Japan, Argentine, New Zealand and Australia.

Cricket

The South African National Cricket Team is named The Proteas, after its national flower. In 2012, it became the first national team to be ranked number one in all three formats of the sport. In spite of having a reputation of being ‘chokers’ and never having made it past the semis of the Cricket World Cup, ICC World T20 or ICC Champions Trophy tournaments. Cricket is still very popular in South Africa, but particularly among English speakers, Afrikaans-speaking whites and the Asian/Muslim communities.

Football

Many consider football to be South Africa’s most popular sport. More than 2 million play the game and both Bafana Bafana and the Premier Soccer League are able to draw large crowds and are a source of national pride. This is in spite of the fact that for a century it was a victim of segregation. In 2010, South Africa hosted the World Cup that served to boost its popularity even more. The country has played in three World Cups as well as hosting the 2010 tournament, since apartheid ended. It has also been instrumental as one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football. Twice it has hosted the Africa Cup of Nations tournament and won it in 1996.

Cycling

Possibly not the first sport that springs to mind if you think about South Africa, but it happens to be one that is increasing in popularity. More and more people may be choosing to watch this particular sort because South Africa now hosts two of the largest individually-times cycle races in the world. The first is the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which is the biggest, and it has had more than 35,000 participants in recent years. It was also the first of the UCI’s Golden Bike series to be held outside of Europe. South Africa has also enjoyed a certain amount of success on the international cycling stage, with Robert Hunter, a native of Johannesburg, becoming the first South African to win a stage of the Tour de France. This happened in 2007, and in 2013, Daryl Impey enjoyed wearing the yellow jersey as tour leader.

Golf

Ask any golfer where the best courses are and a large number will say South Africa. And the excellence of the courses is certainly one good reason for the sports popularity. It is, in fact, one of the nation’s most successful individual sports and gained a place on the world golf map in the 50s and 60s. This was all down to Bobby Locke, who won the British Open four times in the space of nine years. South Africa’s place was further strengthened when Gary Player became well known in the 70s. Also known as “The Black Knight” he is one of only five players who have won all four Majors in his career. Other recognizable South African golfing faces have been Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthulzen. All of whom have won majors.

Thousands of fans enjoy one or more of these sports, across South Africa, so it comes as no surprise to learn that sports betting is also huge. Over the last few years it has become much easier to place bets using a mobile device. There are plenty of websites dedicated to the South African sports betting market. The most popular sports for betting are football and cricket, but most operators cover pretty much every kind of sport.