Sport is very popular in South Africa, and the main sporting codes are rugby, soccer (football) and cricket, although hockey and netball are also played at an international level. Televised sport is a weekend institution in the country, although the national teams have achieved a varying level of success in the different codes.
South African sport was consigned to a doldrums period during the apartheid era, when other countries refused to compete against South African teams. However, after re-admission in the early 1990s, teams in the various codes have become worthy international competitors.
By far the most successful South African sports team is the national rugby team. Affectionately known as the “Springboks” or “Bokke” (after the springbuck logo on their jerseys), the team has won the Rugby World Cup twice in four attempts, first in 1995, when South Africa hosted the event, and again in 2007 in France. The team is usually subject to severe pressure from fans at home, and a loss in a test match can cause sharp criticism, which is somehow strange, given the fact that the team is one of the most successful in the world. Every year, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand participate in the Tri-Nations tournament, and then there is also the Super 14 league involving provincial teams from those three countries.
South African soccer received a boost in 2010 with the hosting of the FIFA World Cup. Several stadia were custom designed for the tournament, and the South African team managed an historic win over France in the group stages, but failed to qualify for the next round. Local soccer clubs such as Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are passionately supported. And yes, the vuvuzela is blown at local soccer matches, so be prepared!
South African cricket has a long tradition, going back to the 1890s. After re-admission in 1992, the team has consistently achieved solid performances, without winning a major tournament. The closest they have come was in the 1999 World Cup, when they were knocked out of the tournament in the semi-finals by Australia’s superior run rate earlier in the tournament, after the semi-final was tied.
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