South Africans are as passionate about rugby as people from anywhere in the world. The good news is that they have a lot of different elite rugby leagues, events and competitions to bet on.
International Test matches are also regularly played in both rugby union and rugby league. Here, we have picked out some of the main rugby leagues and tournaments for people to look out for:
Rugby World Cup
There is no doubt that the Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport. There is a Rugby World Cup for both union and league, but the union version tends to get a lot more attention among South African sports fans. South Africa's victory at the 1995 tournament, after which president Nelson Mandela wore a Springboks rugby shirt and cap to present the trophy, the Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar, is a huge moment in SA's history. The next Rugby World Cup is set to be held in 2023, with South Africa set to defend their crown in France. The next Rugby World Cup in the women's game is in 2021, with New Zealand hosting. Rugby league's next World Cup is also in 2021, with the matches held in the United Kingdom.
Six Nations Championship
Although South Africa does not take part, the Six Nations Championship is one of the biggest events on rugby's annual calendar. Comprising England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales, the Six Nations takes place every year in Britain's spring. There is also a corresponding Six Nations Championship for women, with the same teams. Adding South Africa into the Six Nations Championship has been mooted in the past.
The Rugby Championship
Previously known as the Tri-Nations, The Rugby Championship is the highlight of the year for a lot of rugby lovers in South Africa. The Springboks always take on Australia and New Zealand each year in the event, with Argentina completing the quartet. South Africa won The Rugby Championship in 2019 but pulled out in 2020 due to the global pandemic.
World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Another important international rugby union competition is the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup, which is made up of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Played every year like The Rugby Championship and the Six Nations Championship, the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup was previously called Pacific Five Nations, which replaced the Pacific Tri-Nations.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Moving on to the club game, the European Rugby Champions Cup is one of the most important events in the sport of rugby union. Each year sees 24 teams from the countries involved in the Six Nations Championship facing off for the trophy. There is also a second-tier event in Europe, known as the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
South Africans might be more interested in Super Rugby as this involves SA teams, as well as clubs from nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Japan. However, after hints that some South African teams could pull out, the future of Super Rugby is now in doubt and it seems likely the tournament will soon have to go through a major overhaul.
Teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales take part in the Pro14 tournament, which is sponsored by Guinness. This event first used to be known as the Celtic League and has gone through a number of name changes as extra teams joined the fray. South African teams were added for the 2017–18 season and another significant overhaul is expected for the competition in 2021-22. South African teams Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls are set to join, with the tournament being rebranded as the United Rugby Championship as a result.
Rugby fans in South Africa love tuning into the Currie Cup, which has a long history dating back more than 100 years and is played each winter and spring. Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls are the most successful team in the history of the Currie Cup, with other top teams to have enjoyed a lot of victories in the event over the years including Western Province and Natal.
Widely known as the SuperSport Rugby Challenge due to the television company's sponsorship of the tournament, this event is normally played at the same time of the season as Super Rugby. The first time that the Rugby Challenge was held was in 2017 so this is still quite a new tournament, having been designed as a replacement for the Vodacom Cup.
Rugby league competitions
While it is rugby union that dominates the conversation in South Africa, there are a number of important rugby league competitions that people in the country also like to bet on. Among them are the Rugby League Four Nations - which sees Australia, England and New Zealand face off against a guest nation that has to qualify to take part. In South Africa, the main rugby league events and tournaments to bet on are the Rhino Cup and the Protea Cup. Domestically, Australia has the NRL and the Super League is the top competition in England.