The ‘Rainbow Nation’ of South Africa is one of the most diverse and fascinating countries in the world, offering the chance to get up close to wildlife and view some amazing landscapes (whilst watching some great sports action along the way!).
Capital – Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Currency – South African Rand (ZAR)
Official & Recognised Languages – English, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, Southern Ndebele
Population – 57.78 million
Time – UTC+2 (SAST)
Sport in South Africa
Sport plays a significant role in South African culture, with the most popular being football, rugby union and cricket. South Africa was banned from international competition in most sports throughout the apartheid era, before returning in the early 1990s.
Football in South Africa
Football is South Africa’s most popular sport. The country was the first in Africa to host a FIFA World Cup, doing so in 2010. The national team, nicknamed Bafana Bafana, has had limited success – playing in three FIFA World Cup’s (1998, 2002 and 2010) but exiting at the group stage of all three tournaments. They have won the Africa Cup of Nations once – in 1996 on home soil.
The South African Premier Division is the highest division of league football in the country, with the main cup competitions being the Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout, and the MTN 8 Cup. The most successful teams are the Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Kazier Chiefs – the latter two compete in the first contested Soweto Derby.
Cricket in South Africa
The South Africa national team, known as the Proteas, are one of the leading nations in world cricket and one of the twelve test countries that are sanctioned to play test cricket. The team has topped the ICC rankings in all forms of the games and has reached the semi-finals of both the Cricket World Cup and T20 World Cup on numerous occasions. The country co-hosted the 2003 Cricket World with Kenya and Zimbabwe and solely hosted the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007.
The major domestic competitions in South Africa are the Sunfoil Series (four day first class competition), the Momentum One Day Cup (one-day competition) and the Mzansi Super League (Twenty20 competition). The tournaments feature six franchise teams, each representing a province:
- Cape Cobras (Boland/Western Province)
- Dolphins (KwaZulu-Natal/KZN Inland)
- Knights (Free State/Griqualand West)
- Lions (Gauteng/North West)
- Titans (Easterns/Northerns)
- Warriors (Eastern Province/Border/SW Districts)
Rugby Union in South Africa
Rugby Union is the third most popular sport in the country, with the national team known as the Springboks. The team is one of the strongest in the world, winning three Rugby World Cup’s (1995, 2007 and 2019). The win on home soil in 1995 was seen as a significant moment in sport, with President Nelson Mandela presenting the trophy to the South African captain François Pienaar.
South African domestic teams play in several competitions:
- Four teams play in Super Rugby (Bulls, Lions, Sharks & Stormers), an international provincial tournament contested by teams from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
- Following a restructure of the Super Rugby competition in 2017, two teams (the Cheetahs and Southern Kings) were dropped and subsequently joined the Pro14 tournament – consisting of teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
- The Currie Cup is the premier domestic rugby union competition played since 1892, featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces.
Getting to South Africa & Visa
The major international airports of South Africa are in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban which between them have flights across the world. Nelspruit also has an international airport for travelers en route to the Kruger National Park.
Entry Requirements & Visas
Tourists from many countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the USA and most Western European countries are given a free 90 day visitor’s permit upon arrival in South Africa.
If you are a UK citizen, you can view the UK’s government latest advice on entry requirements to South Africa by clicking here. For other passport holders, consult your own government’s travel advice for entry to South Africa.
Getting around South Africa
Air – As well as the major international airports in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, domestic airports can be found in cities such as Port Elizabeth, East London, George and Bloemfontein.
There are a number of South Africa Airlines partners and budget airlines which offer affordable travel across the country. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner.
Bus/Coach – Long distance buses are an alternative to flying, but require a lot of patience as the journey’s can be long! City to City, Greyhound, Intercape and Translux are some of the most well known companies offering travel between major cities. There are a couple of backpacker shuttle operators that offer hop-on, hop-off fares such as Baz Bus and the Mzansi Experience.
Car Hire – Hiring a car is a relatively inexpensive way of travelling across South Africa, meaning you can dictate your own itinerary and pace. There are many companies offering car hire and can be found across most major towns, with one-way hire often available.
Train – Travelling by train is a great way to experience the vastness of South Africa. The Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains are safe and comfortable, linking Johannesburg with Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth & East London. The overnight journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town costs 690 Rand in a 2-berth or 4-berth sleeper. If you’re looking for a more luxurious journey, the famous Blue Train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria, costing from 10,120 Rand.
South Africa City Guides
Click on the below for a guide to some of South Africa’s major cities and most popular stops for Sports Tourist’s: