Share this!

A Quick Guide to Traditional South African Games

Snap!!! Let’s journey back to your childhood. Do you remember Diketo and Kho-kho? What about Intonga or Morabaraba? The fun of childhood, when there were no worries or responsibilities. You could play these games all day.

I always looked forward to holidays or breaks from school to play with friends and siblings. South Africa and its local sports are so much fun. If you have been out of the country for years, it’s about time you return and share with your children what you enjoyed while growing up. By the way, one is never too old to play. If you have forgotten how to, here’s a reminder.


You so could not have forgotten this. A game played by two individuals at a time. Two circles of about 10cm in diameter are drawn on the floor with 10 small stones in each of it. One bigger stone or “ghoen” is held by each player.

You throw the bigger stone up and move all 10 stones out of the circle and catch the bigger stone with the same hand just before it touches the ground. You throw the ghoen up again and move exactly 9 stones back into the circle leaving one stone outside and catch the ghoen just before it touches the ground. That’s the first win. You repeat the procedure, moving 9 stones out and 8 stones in, 8 stones out and 7 stones in while throwing up the ghoen and catching it until no stone is left in the circle.

If the ghoen touches the ground while coordinating the smaller stones or you move more or fewer stones in or out of the circle, you lose. It’s so much fun. It keeps you glued to the floor because you just want to make sure you win while praying that your opponent misses a step. It is common amongst kids but played by people of all ages.


This is a stick fighting game. It is quite violent but considered as part of South Africa’s culture. You might be a part of this sport by just viewing from the sidelines as it has rules that you might not be aware of. It is a game that helps young men develop endurance and learning to defend without “weapons of war”. It was a traditional way of settling disputes or for deciphering the stronger man amongst herdsmen.

It is a game of two, usually played by young men. Both players hold on to two sticks each, one for attack and the other for defense. A helmet or a rugby scrum cap is worn to protect the head. Strikes to the head, neck, knees, and ankles attract points while areas behind the ears and the groin when attacked are considered foal. It is advisable that you simply watch the sport as it is played so you don’t earn yourself bad injuries.


South African Games Morabaraba

It is a game of two players trying to outmaneuver the other. It is a board game (like draft or chess) with each player having 12 tokens of a color different from that of his opponent. These tokens are called “cows”. The board has three square segments, an outer, mid, and inner segment divided by four straight lines into 24 equidistant parts.

It is a game of logic, reason, and probabilities. Three main stages of the game include placing, moving and flying the cows. This is an opportunity to show if you are still in vogue with the pattern of reasoning you left behind. You can teach your kids to play this game and even get a board to take back with you when you’re leaving the country.


South African Games Koh Koh

Two teams of nine players each. One team of chasers and the other team of runners. Do you remember this game? It keeps you running and laughing. You just have to run and run until you get caught.

The team of nine chasers kneels on the floor with four facing one direction and five facing the opposite direction. A chaser and a runner are chosen. If the runner is caught, another runner takes his place until all nine runners are caught. The chasers are in opposite directions so that the chaser closest to the runner can catch him once he is touched by the standing chaser.

It can be played by a group of adults or kids or by adults and kids. You could include it in your program probably over a braai. Your kids are sure to “collapse” from laughing so hard while running.


This is a skipping sport. Two players hold different ends of the skipping rope while the third player jumps in different styles while chanting and singing different songs.  People often gather to watch. The third player’s skill in moving her feet up while doing funny stunts gives the game a certain thrill. You might be amazed at what she’ll do without the ropes getting stuck between her legs.

There are other sports that have preserved the South African heritage besides the above mentioned. They include dikebe (a kick and run ball game), hula hooping (you’re definitely familiar with this, a sporting activity that allows you play and work out), musangwe(bare-knuckle fighting), and yo-yo.

So, visiting home or recreating these games in your environment is going to afford you the chance to take a walk down memory lane to a time when men were boys and women–tiny, little girls.