Sporting Provinces of South Africa

This article is about the provinces as they were before 1995 - all the affiliated Provinces of the South African Amateur Swimming Union (SAASU), their Towns and Swimming Pools, and Schools that compete in aquatic sports. 

South West Africa was administered as a part of South Africa since 1919.  Rhodesia, including Northern Rhodesia, competed as full provinces in all South African sporting competitions until they became independent states. In 1964 Northern Rhodesia became Zambia.

Since the creation of SAASU in 1899, the national championships of South African aquatic sports were held on an inter-provincial basis until 1995, when the provinces were abolished by the new ANC government, and the national championships are now held on a club basis. 

At its founding in 1900, the SAASU provinces were both in the Cape Colony. After the Boer War ended in 1902, the other colonies - Orange River Colony, Transvaal and Natal also affiliated. In time the number grew to 13 competing provinces. Very little information about the history of these has been found, and no effort made by the new governing body to recognise the history from before 1995.

The neighbouring States played a small role in the development of aquatic sports in South Africa, and since 1994 this has grown considerably. These included Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, and the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, further away. Note a detailed history of sports in the neighbouring states is beyond the scope of this article.

These articles list the Provinces, their towns, schools, and aquatic sports facilities. The few schools in each province that participate - or did - in aquatic sports are shown, with their facilities, where these are available. 

Click here to read about the peculiar geography of the country, and the various swimming pools and other places where aquatic sports history has been made.

Each province has its own administrative body - styled as an Amateur Swimming Association. Each was affiliated with the South African Amateur Swimming Association (SAASU), which in turn was a member of the international governing body for aquatic sports, known as FINA.

The local body was responsible for all the disciplines - swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming. Lifesaving and the various multisport were not affiliated or connected to these administrative entities. 

From its establishment in 1910 until 1994, South Africa was a country created out of four political entities - the two former British colonies of the Cape and Natal, and the two Afrikaner republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. For sporting purposes, these were divided into smaller provinces.

Each province is distinct in its economy, geography, and history.  For example,  Transvaal was a densely populated and industrialized province. Its main centre was the city Johannesburg, with numerous big schools and municipal swimming pools. In contrast, the Orange Free State was a large and sparsely populated province with few large towns. The majority of Free State dorpies with one school in each - and an unheated municipal swimming pool. Many of those facilities are now dead pools. 

The geography of the sub-continent played a big role in the history of aquatic sports. The Pools and other Places - the swimming pools, rivers, beaches, dams - are defined by their location. Heated pools - and indoor pools -  were few and far between. The inland provinces were on the highveld, which is up to 1500m above sea level, and where winter temperatures dropped below freezing. Along the sub-tropical coast, the swimmers from Natal could train outdoors for most of the year 

Each province had its own education department, rooted in its particular history. The whole country, outside the cities, was largely Afrikaans speaking, while cities had more English schools. Notable exceptions were the wealthy rural English private schools found in Natal and the Eastern Cape. Aquatic sports are traditionally favoured by English schools, while Afrikaans schools dominate the rugby and netball rankings in 2020.

South African urban development started with Cape Town in 1652. In 2020 there are about 10 centres that might be described as cities, with the vast majority of towns being small rural settlements. The towns generally had one high school and often a 33,3 yard unheated outdoor municipal swimming pool. Due to changes in demographics and municipal mismanagement, many of these schools and municipal swimming pools have become derelict and swimming is no longer a social activity.