Sport is a major preoccupation anywhere in South Africa, but in Johannesburg it’s an obsession. The biggest sport in town is football, and there’s a passionate rivalry between Jo’burg’s two biggest teams, fuelled by the type of scandal, intrigue and mutual loathing that sustains armies of sports reporters. In Jo’burg (and specifically Soweto), you’re either a fan of Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates, and for decades local derbies have pulled mammoth crowds of seventy thousand. This is where the Chiefs are based, until they move into their very own Amakhosi Stadium, 40km west of Jo’burg. It’s worth trying to go to a home game of either team, especially one against Pretoria giants Mamelodi Sundowns. Tickets are cheap, the football can be exciting – if a little chaotic – and the atmosphere is often exhilarating. Crowd violence is very rare, and there is secure parking.
Ellis Park in downtown Jo’burg (011 402 8644) is a South African rugby shrine, particularly since the triumph there of the Springboks in the 1995 World Cup. As well as hosting international fixtures it’s also home ground to the provincial Gauteng Lions team. The best way to get there is to make use of the park-and-ride system that operates for big games, with buses shuttling in from car parks outside the centre.
The major cricket games, including five-day test matches, are played at the Wanderers Stadium, off Corlett Drive, Illovo (011 788 1008), though if you look carefully at the touring programme for any visiting international teams you may find fixtures scheduled to be played in Soweto or Alexandra.