Ever since the World Cup was held in South Africa in 2010, you may have been wondering what the most popular sports are in the country. You would be right on the money if your first guess was Association Football. After football, though, you may be surprised to learn that cricket comes in second place and rugby only comes in third. For decades, sports have actually been an extremely controversial topic in South Africa. During apartheid, all South African sports teams were segregated. Black South Africans were banned from participation in any professional sports league and the South African Olympic team. Furthermore, South African teams refused to compete against any other team that wasn't white. In turn, South Africa was banned from participating in most international sporting events, including the Olympics, until its teams became racially integrated. As of 1992, the South African Government has depended upon the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) to ensure that all South Africans are welcome as participants or spectators at any sporting event.
Association football, or soccer as most Americans know it, is by far the most popular sport in South Africa. The South African Football Association (SAFA) was founded in 1991 and is South Africa's first non-racial football association. As of 1992, the SAFA has been accepted into FIFA and South Africa has been eligible to play in international matches. South Africa's top league is called the Premier Soccer League and this league includes 16 professional teams. South Africa also has a national team called Bafana Bafana, which is a Zulu term of endearment that translates to "The Boys, The Boys." In 2010, Bafana Bafana hosted the FIFA World Cup.
South Africans have been playing cricket since the British introduced the sport in the late 19th century. Cricket is the only sport in South Africa that is considered a top-two sport by every race group. South Africa is home to many of the world's best cricket players and is one of only 10 countries sanctioned to play test cricket. Cricket South Africa is the sport's governing body, and the nation has six first-class teams. South Africa also has a national team called the Proteas, named after a local plant.
If you have ever seen the movie Invictus, then you already know that rugby is a big deal in South Africa. The third most popular sport, rugby is also South Africa's most competitive sport. Rugby is governed by South Africa Rugby Union and domestically, South Africa has six teams that participate in Super Rugby along with Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Western Samoa. South Africa's national team, the Springboks, have won the Rugby World Cup twice. The team is also famous for being representative of apartheid, until 1995 when Nelson Mandela began wearing a Springbok jersey and appearing at World Cup games to cheer the team on in order to incorporate the traditional sport into the "New South Africa."