Soccer and Rugby in South Africa: A Racial Divide and Future Transformation

Seminar Quick Facts

Location:  Cape Town, South Africa

Faculty Leader: Robert Sinclair, Materials Science and Engineering

BOSP Special Programs Coordinator: Yosefa Gilon

Arrival date in Cape Town, South Africa (tentative): June 24, 2018

Departure date from Cape Town, South Africa (tentative): July 14, 2018


Additional Program Requirements
Optional Vaden Travel Health Orientation

Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Information for Travelers to South Africa

US State Department Country Information
South Africa

Visa Information
Consulate General of South Africa

General Information: Visit the Faculty-Initiated Programs Overview Page 

Application Deadline: January 14, 2018 - Apply Now!

General Description

A superficial analysis of the compositions of the most recent South Africa World Cup soccer and rugby teams would indicate that soccer is largely a sport for those of African origin whereas the latter is populated by those of European descent. Likewise, the support for these two sports appears to show similar proportionality. This course then proposes to examine the depth to which these notions are true, and if so, the historical and societal factors which play a role in this apparent divide. It is expected that, like any close scrutiny of aspects of culture in South Africa, the real situation is much more complex, but by focusing on two of the country’s most popular pastimes aspects of the structure of modern South African society can be revealed. Of course, any relevance to our own society will in addition be sought.

Soccer and rugby are sub-categories of sports generally known as “football”. The rules and structure of the games were established by the Victorian British upper class in the 1860’s. While both were initially played in the public (i.e. elite private) schools and universities, soccer became almost immediately popular as a spectator and participatory sport amongst the British working class. It rapidly spread world-wide, possibly owing to the extensive trading in which Britain was engaged, such that by the end of the 19th century it was the most popular game in most countries, a notable exception being the US. On the other hand, rugby retained its origins and until the last few decades was still associated with “upper class” communities both in the “home countries” and in several British Commonwealth nations (formerly within the British Empire) particularly South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. With this in mind, it is not too surprising how the sports developed in South Africa itself, with the soccer teams located largely in the townships and rugby prominent in the affluent suburbs and “elite” private schools. It should be noted that rugby is arguably the most popular sport in South Africa, and the victory at home in the Rugby World Cup in 1995, shortly after the country’s democratization, was clearly a transcendent event in South African history (as described in “Invictus”).

This program will first study the evolution and development of these two sports alongside key events in South African history and society. The backdrop to the course is naturally the contemporary society in South Africa and Cape Town is an ideal location. We will engage with both sports communities and will spend significant time with executives and players of Cape Town’s premier teams: Ajax (soccer) and Stormers (rugby). In both cases, there is a real emphasis of developing young players and providing opportunities of growth through sports participation, from “grass roots” to international level. Indeed, the rugby community has been charged by the Minister of Sport to achieve a transformation, to bring the constituency of the national team up to half African participation by the time of the next World Cup (2019), following its disappointing performance in the 2015 World Cup in England. An additional interesting comparison is to the composition of US sports teams and their own support base.

This program is targeted to student-athletes since participants will have the opportunity to continue their athletic training while using the facilities at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa throughout the duration of the program. It will be a wonderful opportunity to study abroad while still keeping up with off-season training. Non-athletes are also encouraged to apply.


Cape Town is one of the most important cities in South Africa, being a port city on the main sea route around the Cape of Good Hope. It has a diverse population, ranging from the affluent, largely European origin suburbs, a significant Muslim community and several “townships” which are largely populated by people of African origin, as established during the apartheid era in the second half of the 20th century.

It is home to several South African Premier League soccer teams (e.g. Ajax, Cape Town City) and the Stormers rugby team. Involvement with these organizations will be a key component of the course.

There will be field trips to the major points of interest in Cape Town (e.g. Table Mountain, Robben Island, the Cape Peninsula etc.) as well as to townships and non-government organizations (NGO’s).

Living and Travel Conditions

It is anticipated that students will be housed in cottages quite close to Newlands Rugby stadium (home of the Stormers and the Stanford Cape Town Center).

Training programs will be organized at Sports Science Institute of South Africa by the provider for student-athletes and for students in general.


Robert (Bob) Sinclair was born and brought up in Liverpool, England, one of the “homes” of English soccer. He attended a “rugby only” grammar school before his university education at Cambridge. He came to the United States in 1973, firstly at Berkeley, moving to the faculty at Stanford in 1977. While being a professor in the School of Engineering, he has maintained his interest in sports, particularly soccer and the English Premier League.

Sinclair has visited and spent time in Cape Town on several occasions since 2002. As Director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) during 2010-2012, he made annual trips to the Cape Town Center and organized the BOSP Directors’ Meeting there in 2012. He has also visited the homes of Ajax Cape Town and the Cape Town Stormers.

In addition to being BOSP Director, Sinclair has taught at Stanford Centers overseas on three occasions: Kyoto in 1997 and Oxford in 2001 and 2010. On the latter occasions his main course was “Soccer and British Society” which dealt with the social history of soccer and its place in British society.

Prerequisites and Expectations

  • There are no prerequisites.
  • There will be required class meetings daily, several required field trips and attendance at appropriate sporting events.
  • Required readings will include “Invictus” (Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman), “Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation” (John Carlin, 2008), and “Long Run to Freedom: Sport, Culture and Identities in South Africa” (John Nauright, 2010).
  • Students are also recommended to read a text on South African history and the racial struggle.

Application Process

Number of students accepted: 15 undergraduate students

Grading Basis

Letter grade

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of South Africa website. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

Visa Central by CIBT offers online Stanford rates; or contact the local office:

VisaCentral San Francisco
555 Montgomery Street, Suite 700
San Francisco, CA 94111
(877) 535-0688
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Travisa for Stanford Travel Program offers online Stanford rates; or contact the local office:

Travisa San Francisco
220 Montgomery Street, Suite 991
San Francisco, CA 94104
Dedicated Accounts Team- (415) 837-0771 (Select Option #3)

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their physicians.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students due become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to South Africa. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

There will be an optional South Africa health orientation in February. 

Students must review the U.S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in South Africa.

As with any foreign travel, emphasis will be placed on staying away from questionable situations, avoiding injury, and preventing infectious disease. Students will be expected to travel in groups, avoid travel at night, and stay with the group unless prior approval is obtained.

While overseas, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the areas in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, or unavailability of facilities or personnel or compliance with the University travel policy. The specific seminar dates, locations, facilities, and activities are subject to change depending on available resources at the time, safety and security situations on the ground, and other important considerations that may arise for a successful implementation of the seminar.