South Africa hosts a number of sporting events that draw participants and spectators from all over the world. Here, Tourism Update provides a round-up of some key events, as a way for tourists to combine their love of sport with a trip to the country.

For tourists, sporting events offer the destination a way of drawing visitors who might not have chosen the country as a destination themselves. Judy Lain, Chief Marketing Officer at Wesgro says: “Sporting events allow visitors to experience the destination in a unique way, doing something they love.” Phindile Makwakwa, acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) adds that major sporting events help combat seasonality: “An event taking place in winter helps the industry manage the downfalls of the popularity of our summer season.”


Amashova Classic

The oldest cycle race in South Africa, the Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic takes place in October each year. The race follows roughly the same course as the Comrades Marathon, travelling between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, KZN. The event offers 35km, 65km, 106km and 160km route options, all finishing at the Suncoast precinct in Durban. Makwakwa says: “Events like this are important for us because cyclists will travel with their families and their technical teams. So this becomes a hook for people to travel to our destination.”

Cape Town Cycle Tour

The largest timed bicycle race in the world, the race now forms part of a week-long event known as the Cape Town Cycle Tour Lifecycle Week. The event ‘celebrates all things cycling’. Set to take place from March 2-11 next year, the week includes the Cape Town Cycle tour (a 95km road race), a mountain bike race (a 20km, 40km or 60km race through the Cape Winelands) and a junior race.

Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

Taking place in November every year, this race is Johannesburg’s major cycling event. Covering 94.7km, the race takes riders through some of the city’s major suburbs and business hubs, including Sandton and Fourways. The race also includes mountain biking and kids’ race options.


Comrades Marathon

For more than 90 years, the Comrades Marathon has drawn participants and spectators from all over the world. Taking place in KZN, the 90km ultramarathon takes runners between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, alternating direction each year. Makwakwa says: “An event as big as this is also a great boost for our tourism, with people spending money on accommodation, food and activities when they are either participating in or just watching the event.”

Two Oceans Marathon

The Two Oceans takes place over Easter every year in Cape Town. The event offers a 56km ultramarathon, 21km half-marathon, trail run and fun-run. Said to be one of the most beautiful road races in the world, the route takes runners from the city via Chapman’s Peak to Hout Bay.


Water events

Midmar Mile

The world’s largest open-water swim takes place in February each year outside Howick in KZN. With around 13 000 entries each year, the race takes place over two days and includes events for disabled swimmers, over 71s, kids and companies. Situated in the Midlands, the event is a good reason to extend a trip to explore the region.

Dusi Canoe Marathon

Held over three days in mid-February, the race covers roughly 120km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in KZN and attracts up to 2 000 paddlers each year. The race concludes at Blue Lagoon in Durban, following overnight stays in the region. Participants are encouraged to use family or friends to second them (assist them along the way by providing refreshments), drawing people to the region.

J-Bay Open

Taking place each winter in Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape, as part of the World Surf League, the tournament pulls the best surfers in the world to experience the swells, dubbed by surfing legend Kelly Slater as some of his favourite in the world. The event draws spectators to the beach but also allows them to explore the region including nearby Port Elizabeth, Garden Route and plenty of nature reserves.

Horse Racing

Durban July

With more than 50 000 spectators flocking to KZN’s Greyville Racecourse, the Durban July has become a must-do on South Africa’s calendar. Makwakwa says: “It is a lifestyle event as much as a sporting event.” For spectators, the event offers a variety of options including food stands, restaurants, bars, music and the chance to see the ‘who’s-who’ in South African and international high society. Options range from budget to red-carpet, luxury treatment. And, there’s a world-class horse race thrown in as well.


Nedbank Golf Challenge

A highlight on the golfing calendar, the Nedbank Golf Challenge takes place in November each year at Sun City in the North West Province. Hosted by golf legend Gary Player, the event has been around since 1981 and offers tourists a chance to watch some of the world’s best golfers take each other on in one of South Africa’s premier tourist destinations. The location offers spectators plenty of activities to include in their trip as well as game viewing at Pilanesberg National Park.

South African leagues

In addition to large events, the country offers year-round rugby, football and cricket tournaments that would give tourists a chance to experience an authentic South African sporting event, alongside local fans. Currie Cup rugby, the Premier Soccer League and the Sunfoil Series for cricket all have fixtures throughout the year all over the country, offering visitors the chance to enjoy some local sport while in South Africa. Some international leagues, like the Super Rugby league and the Sunshine Golf Tour, also have local fixtures.