South Africa has a deserved reputation as a sports mad country. The warm, dry climate encourages outdoor activities, and sports are an important part of the institutional culture at many schools and universities. South Africans are also keen spectators and supporters, collectively supporting dozens of professional franchises in the country's favourite sporting codes.
Association football, or soccer, is South Africa's most popular sport. Millions of South Africans support the domestic football league, the PSL (Premier Soccer League), which is the home to the country's 16 professional football clubs. Many South Africans also support teams in foreign leagues, particularly the English Premier League.
Despite the massive interest in football in South Africa, the South African national team has failed to make an impact on the international stage since emerging from isolation in the mid-1990s. The last major achievement by the South African national football team was winning the 1996 African Cup of Nations.
South Africa will host and compete in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The hosting of the tournament in South Africa is expected to have a major impact on the development of South African football, and millions of dollars have been invested in improving infrastructure and the standard of the national team.
Rugby Union is the most popular sport in the South African white community, and is played in most South African schools. South Africa is one of the superpowers of international rugby, and is currently the World Champion, having won the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
The South African national team, or Springboks, are a powerful South African cultural and political symbol, and the management and selection of the team is routinely subjected to intervention by the South African government. The national team is nevertheless well supported by members of all of South Africa's ethnic groups.
South Africa has a thriving domestic rugby league, with elite teams competing in the regional Super 14 tournament as well as the famous Currie Cup. South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, which produced one of the most memorable moments in South African history, when South Africa beat New Zealand in a pulsating final at Ellis Park.
While domestic football is mainly followed by the black South African population, and domestic rugby is mostly popular amongst white South Africans, cricket is the one South African sport that has truly transcended racial boundaries.
The South African cricket team is recognised as one of the finest teams in international cricket, and has a particularly good record in One Day International cricket. During the Apartheid years South Africa boasted a strong domestic competition that is credited with preserving the strength of South African cricket during this period.
South Africa hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup, and has played in this competition four times since emerging from international isolation. The country also hosted the first every 20/20 Cricket World Cup in 2007. In 2007 South Africa chased down a record total of 431 set by Australia during a One Day International at the Wanderers Stadium - a match South Africans regard as the greatest of all time.