Rugby in South Africa
Rugby holds a high-ranked place in the heart of South Africa. It is perhaps regarded as the most established and most successful sport in this country. While cricket and soccer are hugely popular team sports in South Africa they still seem to stand to the side of rugby. Traditionally South Africa has always held a high ranking in the world of rugby, having won the world cup twice. Cricket and soccer have fallen just short of this level of prestige. Rugby in South Africa owes much of its strength to the old government which promoted development of the game as the national sport for white Afrikaners.
Soccer has always been the primary sport of interest among the black population and cricket was generally regarded as a hallmark of British colonialism and the English South Africans. With rugby already a hugely popular global sport, it showed potential for South Africa to compete on an international level. During the apartheid era however, South Africa was banned from competing in most global sporting arenas. This probably encouraged the strong development of domestic rugby which to this day maintains a large viewer ship.
With South Africa being allowed to compete in and host the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the country looked ready to take the game to the world. After many years of isolation, the victory of the Springboks (the name for South Africa’s national team) saw the country becoming a dominant force in world rugby. South Africa continued to be a powerful side during the late 90′s and despite some setbacks went on to win the 2007 World Cup. During these last few years, the general success of the Springboks has encouraged an increased interest in rugby from the black communities of South Africa. This has transformed the image of rugby in South Africa into becoming the leading sport with universal support. With rugby now played and watched by all cultural groups in South Africa, the future of the sport is guaranteed and the country continues to be a world heavyweight.
Aside from the IRB (International Rugby Board) World Cup which is held once every four years, South Africa competes annually against fellow southern hemisphere competitors – Australia and New Zealand, in the Tri-Nations. The Super 14 is a competition that sees five regional teams from SA playing against others from Australia and New Zealand. This event was previously known as the Super 12 and before that – the Super 10. The teams seen in the Super 14 are some of those that compete against each other in South Africa’s domestic championship – The Currie Cup. Another feature event is the Vodacom Cup that is held domestically and usually features younger players. All these events are based on rugby union rules as opposed to rugby league.