Provinces of aquatic sports in South Africa

Coastal Provinces


  • Western Province
  • Eastern Province
  • Border
  • Natal
  • South West Africa

Inland Provinces


Outside of these were the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, as well as Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana - which all played some part in the development of aquatic sports in the region.

NOTE: Place names used in this website are usually traditional (old) or as used by the locals. 

See the map for the location of the swimming pools and other locations. No copies of the old provincial map of South Africa could be found online.


The national governing body for aquatic sports in South Africa - the South African Amateur Swimming Union (SAASU) - was founded in 1899 with just two member Provinces - the British Colonies of the Cape and Natal - which were based at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth respectively. Natal and the Orange Free State and the Transvaal joined after the Boer War, and were later split into separate provincial entities. Rhodesia joined as a province in 1920, and South West Africa later also became a member of SAASU.

Each of the province developed its own aquatic sports at schools and in clubs. Coaches were usually independent of either, running their own squads on a commercial basis without any government assistance. Strict enforcement of amateur rules by SAASU meant that coaches played no part in the administration of their sports and were banned from official Springbok tours until the 1970's. Coaches sometimes built their own swimming pools, or used school and municipal facilities. In the 1980's private health clubs began to create indoor 25m pools.

There are many excellent private and state schools in all of the provinces, and many schools now have more than one swimming pool due to the growth of water polo as a team sport for boys and girls.

The oldest European settlement in South Africa was at Cape Town, where the Dutch landed in 1652. The first two aquatic sports provinces were Western Province - based in Cape Town - and Eastern Province, at Port Elizabeth, which developed after the British Settlers arrived en masse in 1820.

South African Amateur Swimming Union (SAASU) was founded in 1899 with just these two Provinces. In time other Cape colony towns like Mosselbay and East London joined, and after the Boer War, the Transvaal, Natal and the Orange Free State also became sporting provinces. Rhodesia joined as a province in 1920, and South West Africa later also became a member of SAASU.


Each of the provinces developed its own distinct aquatic sports culture, based around schools, clubs and independent coaches - like Jimmy Green, Peter Elliot, Santa van Jaarsveld and many more.  A number of coaches came from other countries - like Dutchwoman Clara Aurik, German Niels Bouws, Australian Jim Spring, Englishman Frank Gray. Coaches were usually independent of either, running their own squads on a commercial basis, without any government assistance. Coaches sometimes built their own swimming pools, or used school and municipal facilities. In the 1980's private health clubs began to create indoor 25m pools.

There are many excellent private and state schools in all of the provinces, and many schools now have more than one swimming pool due to the growth of water polo as a team sport for boys and girls. Today most top sporting schools employ professional sports coaches.

NOTE: In 1995 the Marxist ANC government took control of all sports by creating new, political, governing bodies. All the sporting provinces were abolished and provinces renamed. Competitors at the South African championships represent their respective clubs. At inter-school level the annual national championships still features teams representing the Provinces - click here to see the 2018 SA Schools results.

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