While South Africa might not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of sport, the nation has a deep and rich sporting history with dedicated fans and a range of fantastic teams and athletes.

South Africa is an enormous country, so it is no surprise that there are a variety of different sports that are played and followed across the nation. Which are the most popular? Does South Africa follow similar sporting trends to the rest of the world? Let’s find out.


Much like other world nations, the most popular sport in South Africa is football. While they might call it soccer, it remains the most followed and supported sport in the country, with the national football team reported to be South Africa’s favourite professional sports side.

South African football is governed by the South African Football Association, which is a member of the Confederation of African Football.

The country has two professional football divisions, the South African Premier Division and the National First Division, both of which are operated by the Premier Soccer League.

Football’s popularity in South Africa has been bolstered by the hosting of major international tournaments. In 1996, South Africa hosted and won the African Cup of Nations, and then in 2010 it hosted the World Cup, marking the first time an African country had done so.

The country is home to some incredible stadiums, including FNB Stadium, Ellis Park Stadium, and Moses Mabhida Stadium, which is home to the national football team.

Some of the most popular teams in the country include Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Pirates, Orlando Pirates, and SuperSport United.

Unsurprisingly, football represents the most popular sport for betting in South Africa. The country has some excellent online sports betting platforms, like 10bet ZAR.


South Africa has long and historic links with the sport of rugby. The South African national rugby team, the Springboks, is one of the best in the world, they have been crowned world champions in 1995, 2007, and 2019. The country hosted and won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which worked to significantly boost the popularity of the sport in the country.

The sport is governed by the South African Rugby Union, which oversees the various competitions and leagues in the country. The main domestic competition is the Currie Cup, which has been played since 1892. It is made up of teams that represent provinces as well as large regions within provinces, and it remains the most prestigious domestic tournament in the country. Other domestic competitions include the Varsity Club, the Varsity Shield, and the Gold Cup.

South African club teams also take part in a number of international tournaments. Super Rugby is a tournament that is comprised of teams from South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, while the United Rugby Championship is made up of teams from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales.


After football and rugby, cricket comes in as the third most popular sport in South Africa. The sport is governed by Cricket South Africa, which was formed in 2002 after the dissolution of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. Cricket South Africa oversees all aspects of the sport in the country, including men’s and women’s games, and is a member of the International Cricket Council and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.

Cricket has been popular in South Africa since the 1800s. The national side, known as the Proteas, is widely regarded as one of the best cricket teams in the world. However, they often underperform in international tournaments and have faced heavy criticism from fans over the years.

In 2003, South Africa hosted the Cricket World Cup where the Proteas had a disastrous campaign that saw them fail to progress past the group stages. This humiliation led to the resignation of captain Shaun Pollock.

In the 2011 Cricket World Cup, South Africa got off to a promising start, topping their group with a decisive victory over hosts India. However, the Proteas collapsed in the quarter-finals and were soundly turned over by New Zealand.

Most recently, at the 2019 Cricket World Cup South Africa was beaten by Bangladesh, England, and India. They subsequently lost to New Zealand and Pakistan and were knocked out of the tournament.

Despite being perennial underachievers, South Africans are dedicated to their support of the Proteas, and cricket remains one of the country’s favourite sports.

Conclusion South Africans are passionate about sport. Be it football, rugby, or cricket, it is one of the world’s top sporting destinations.

Joahnnesburg, photo: Clodagh da Paixao
Joahnnesburg, photo: Clodagh da Paixao

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