South African Sport
Rugby is one of South Africa's big three sports, alongside soccer and cricket. For the many South African fans of the game, rugby is a serious matter, a source of bursting pride and joy - or shattering disappointment.
The country has traditionally fared extremely well on the world stage, and South African fans expect their national team to win every game it plays.
The South African national rugby union team (the Springboks) are the current holders of the Rugby World Cup and 2009 British and Irish Lions Series winners.They are currently ranked as the third best team in the IRB World Rankings and were named 2008 World Team of the Year at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards.
Although South Africa was instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 because of anti-apartheid sporting boycotts of South Africa. The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. The Springboks then defeated the All Blacks 15–12 in the final, which is now remembered as one of the greatest moments in South Africa's sporting history, and a watershed moment in the post-Apartheid nation-building process. South Africa regained their title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15–6 in the 2007 final. As a result of the 2007 World Cup tournament the Springboks were promoted to first place in the IRB World Rankings; a position they held until July the following year when New Zealand regained the top spot.
The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys, and their emblems are the Springbok and the Protea. The side have been playing international rugby since 1891, when a British Isles side toured the nation, playing South Africa in their first Test on 30 July. South Africa is currently coached by Peter de Villiers, after Jake White, who led the Boks to the 2007 World Cup title, announced his resignation effective at the end of 2007. The current captain is John Smit, who has played hooker for most of his career, although he has also been a prop, mainly in 2008 and 2009. Due to Smit being unavailable for the November 2010 Tests after surgery, lock Victor Matfield took Smit's place as captain for that tour
|Union||South African Rugby Union|
|Nickname(s)||Springboks, Springbokke, Boks, Bokke, Amabokoboko|
|Emblem(s)||the Springbok and the Protea|
|Coach(es)||Peter de Villiers|
|Captain(s)||Victor Matfield (for John Smit)|
|Most caps||Victor Matfield (105)|
|Top scorer||Percy Montgomery (893)|
|Joost van der Westhuizen (38)
Bryan Habana (38)
The SpringboksThe Springboks are the national rugby team and traditionally one of the sport's international powerhouses. Every talented South African youngster dreams of one day wearing "the green and gold".
The Boks have an outstanding international scoresheet, and for many years enjoyed a winning record against all other nations, until a slight slump in performances after South Africa's return from international isolation in 1992.
New Zealand's All Blacks now hold a slight edge in head-to-head meetings with the Springboks, but the South Africans retain a winning record against all other countries.
There have been four big highlights since South Africa's return from international isolation. The first of these took place in 1995 when the country hosted rugby's biggest tournament, the World Cup.
The Springboks made it through to the final at Ellis Park where, spurred on by a frenzied home crowd, and with the whole of South Africa willing them on, they trumped the All Blacks 15-12 in extra time to lift the sport's most coveted trophy.
The Boks' display, opening with a win over defending champions Australia and finishing with victory over favourites New Zealand, united the country, bringing people of all colours together just a year after South Africa's first democratic elections.
The second highlight occurred in 1998, when South Africa broke New Zealand's hold on the Tri-Nations, a competition that matches up the "big three" of the southern hemisphere, with Australia completing the trio.
The Kiwis had won the first two competitions without losing a match, but Gary Teichmann's 1998 side showed spirit and poise in winning all four of their matches to lift the title for the first time.
The third highlight included the Springboks' 1998 Tri-Nations title and went beyond it. It was a run of 17 victories in succession, equalling the world record run by New Zealand between 1965 and 1970 (which, appropriately, was halted by South Africa).
During their 1997/98 run, South Africa defeated Australia, New Zealand, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy - all of them, with the exception of Italy, teams rated amongst the world's elite.
After a rough period, during which Springbok coaches came and went with alarming rapidity, Jake White was appointed coach in 2003. He would go on to lead the team in more matches than any other Springbok coach. He was also at the helm when the fourth great highlight was achieved.
In October 2007, South Africa beat England 15-6 in the final of the World Cup in Paris, after advancing through the tournament unbeaten, to join Australia as the only two-time winner of the William Webb Ellis Trophy.
Not long afterwards, Jake White was named International Rugby Board (IRB) Coach of the Year and Bryan Habana IRB Player of the Year. The Springboks were named IRB Team of the Year and, at the Laureus Sports Awards in February 2008, World Sports Team of the Year.
Tri-NationsThe Tri-Nations is an annual competition, taking place in July and August, that decides who the top international team in the southern hemisphere is.
The competition was first staged in 1996, born of a demand for more regular competition between the southern hemisphere superpowers following the success of the 1995 World Cup.
New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have traditionally set the pace in world rugby - five out of the six World Cups contested since 1987 have been shared among these three - so becoming Tri-Nations champion is a great honour.
- 2010: New Zealand
- 2009: South Africa
- 2008: New Zealand
- 2007: New Zealand
- 2006: New Zealand
- 2005: New Zealand
- 2004: South Africa
- 2003: New Zealand
- 2002: New Zealand
- 2001: Australia
- 2000: Australia
- 1999: New Zealand
- 1998: South Africa
- 1997: New Zealand
- 1996: New Zealand
Super 14The Super 14 competition features 14 regional teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, with South Africa providing five teams, New Zealand five and Australia four.
The forerunner of the competition was the Super 10, contested by provincial teams from the three countries as well as Samoa in 1993 and 1994 and Tonga in 1995.
In 1996, the competition became the Super 12, featuring provincial and regional teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, with the Tongans and Samoans falling out. Two more teams were added in 2006 and it became the Super 14.
The Super 14 is an early season competition, starting in mid-February and finishing by mid-May. The South African teams in the competition are:
- The Sharks - made up of players from the Natal Sharks.
- The Stormers - made up of players from provincial teams Western Province and Boland Cavaliers.
- The Cats - made up of players from provincial teams the Cheetahs, Griquas and Griffons.
- The Lions - made up of players from provincial teams the Lions, Pumas and Leopards.
- The Bulls – made up of players from provincial teams the Blue Bulls and Falcons.
Back in 1993, the team then known as Transvaal beating New Zealand team Auckland to win the first Super 10 competition.
But it was to be a long wait for local fans for the next South African Super rugby winner: until 2007, when the Bulls scored a converted try after the final hooter to sneak a 20-19 win against the Sharks in Durban.
Super 14 champions:
- 2010: Bulls (SA)
- 2009: Bulls (SA)
- 2008: Crusaders (NZ)
- 2007: Bulls (SA)
- 2006: Crusaders(NZ)
Super 12 champions:
- 2005: Crusaders (NZ)
- 2004: Brumbies (Aus)
- 2003: Blues (NZ)
- 2002: Crusaders (NZ)
- 2001: Brumbies (Aus)
- 2000: Crusaders (NZ)
- 1999: Crusaders (NZ)
- 1998: Crusaders (NZ)
- 1997: Blues (NZ)
- 1996: Blues (NZ)
Super 10 champions:
- 1995: Queensland (Aus)
- 1994: Queensland (Aus)
- 1993: Transvaal (SA)
The Currie Cup, the premier provincial rugby competition in South Africa, was first contested in 1892. The format of the Currie Cup varied from year to year, and finals were held intermittently until 1968, after which the final became an annual event.
Up to and including 2007, the most successful province in the history of the Currie Cup is Western Province with 32 titles (four shared), followed by the Blue Bulls with 22 (four shared), the Lions with nine (one shared), the Natal Sharks with four, and the Cheetahs with four (one shared). Other teams that have lifted the trophy include Griquas (three times) and Border (twice, both shared).
For many years the biggest rivalry in South African rugby was between Western Province and the Blue Bulls. During the early to mid-1990s this was superseded by a three-way rivalry between Natal, the Lions and Western Province.
The Blue Bulls have returned to Currie Cup prominence, however, while the Free State Cheetahs won three titles in succession, from 2005 to 2007, including sharing the Currie Cup with the Blue Bulls in 2006.
The Currie Cup takes place roughly between July and October. The format divides 14 teams into eight Premier Division and six First Division teams.
The teams, in alphabetical order, are: Blue Bulls, Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Eagles, Falcons, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards, Mighty Elephants, Natal Sharks, Pumas and Western Province.
Currie Cup champions (since 1994):
- 2010: Natal Sharks
- 2009: Blue Bulls
- 2008: Natal Sharks
- 2007: Free State Cheetahs
- 2006: Blue Bulls / Free State Cheetahs
- 2005: Free State Cheetahs
- 2004: Blue Bulls
- 2003: Blue Bulls
- 2002: Blue Bulls
- 2001: Western Province
- 2000: Western Province
- 1999: Golden Lions
- 1998: Blue Bulls
- 1997: Western Province
- 1996: Natal Sharks
- 1995: Natal Sharks
- 1994: Transvaal
The Vodacom Cup has become an important competition on the South African rugby calendar. It takes place at the same time as the Super 14 competition - starting in late February and finishing in mid-May - and thus creates a platform for talented young players who might otherwise not get a chance to make their mark.
It has also been a fertile breeding ground for strong players from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, thanks to the enforcement of quotas. Quotas, successfully implemented lower down, now extend through the higher levels of South African rugby, including the Super 14.
The Vodacom Cup is divided into two sections - North and South - with the top two teams advancing to the semi-finals and playing cross-section matches of one-versus-two for a place in the final.
The North is made up of the Golden Lions, Griffons, Leopards, Pumas, Falcons, Blue Bulls and Griquas. The South's teams are the Mighty Elephants, Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Free State Cheetahs, Eagles, Western Province, and KZN Wildebeest.
Since the first Vodacom Cup season in 1998, up to and including 2007, the Golden Lions have won the most titles with four victories, including a hat-trick from 2002 to 2004.
Griquas have twice lifted the silverware, while the Free State Cheetahs, Blue Bulls, Leopards and Falcons each have one title to their names.
Vodacom Cup champions:
- 2009: Griquas
- 2008: Blue Bulls
- 2007: Griquas
- 2006: Falcons
- 2005: Leopards
- 2004: Golden Lions
- 2003: Golden Lions
- 2002: Golden Lions
- 2001: Blue Bulls
- 2000: Free State Cheetahs
- 1999: Golden Lions
- 1998: Griqualand West