University Sports South Africa
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University Sports South Africa
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About Us


Established: 8 December 1992  /  Constituted as SASSU: 16 April 1994  /  Re-Constituted as USSA: 19 April 2008

The establishment of the South African Student Sports Union (SASSU) introduced an exciting new era in student sport at tertiary education institutions.  The significance was that it unified two historical separate groupings within our society, i.e. students from historical Black and historical White institutions.  It did so in a way that sought to harness the experience and expertise of both groupings in order to establish a new tradition, one that reflected the aspirations of all student sports persons guided by the historical mission of tertiary education institutions, being centres for the acquisition of life skills and the imparting of knowledge and research.  SASSU was founded within this sector to promote sporting values and encourage sporting practice in harmony with, and complementary to, the academic character of tertiary education institutions. 


The unity process in sport at South African tertiary institutions started on 27 February 1990 when representatives of the South African Universities Sports Council (SAUSC) and students of the South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Council (SATISCO) met at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to investigate the possibility of achieving unity in universities sport. Numerous meetings followed during which matters of mutual interest were identified and ways and means were sought to solve matters of difference in opinion.  

Because SATISCO involved tertiary institutions over the broad spectrum of universities, technikons, colleges of education and even agricultural colleges, it was nonsensical for the SAUSC to negotiate unity with SATISCO without involving the Sports Councils of the South African Technikons and Colleges. This led to the first ever conference on unity in tertiary sport held at the University of Cape Town on 22 and 23 April 1991 organised by the then interim SAU/SATISCO Commission with the assistance of the then Committee of University Principals (CUP).  

At this conference, Chaired by Dr Sam Ramsamy, the need was identified to establish a unified tertiary sports structure which would eventually be responsible for the co-ordination of all tertiary sport in South Africa. It was envisaged that this body would act as a consultative and representative body for South African student sport, liaise with national and international bodies, and be responsible for the organisation of national tertiary tournaments and the selection of teams for participation in the activities of the International University Sports Federation (FISU). This body would also have the responsibility to address the needs and imbalances of students in tertiary sport through national and international development projects and activities.  

The Conference recommended the setting up of a Tertiary Sports Conference Commission (TSCC) consisting of two representatives each from the following student sport structures: 

1. South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Council (SATISCO);
2. South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Association (SATISA);
3. South African Universities Sports Council (SAUSC);
4. South African Technikons Sports Council (SATSC);
5. Sports Council of the SA Teachers' Colleges (SCSATC);
6. South African Inter-Colleges Sports Association (SAICSA).

The TSCC chaired by Mr John Donald, was given the task of attending to the general philosophy of tertiary sport, the structure and constitution for a unified tertiary sports organisation, the sporting needs of students in tertiary institutions, and addressing the sports imbalances in tertiary institutions. The Commission further agreed to co-opted Louis Nel, Sports Secretary of the CUP as General Secretary of the Commission.  

The TSCC met three times (8 August; 30 September and 13 November 1991) during which agreement was reached upon the principles on which unity should be based. The TSCC also attended to the formation of regions and the implementation of an acceptable competition and administrative structures for the proposed umbrella body for tertiary sport. During this time, SATISCO and SATISA unified to form the South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Union (SATISU) while SCSATC and SAICSA unified in the South African Colleges Sports Association (SACSA).  

The TSCC completed its work by the end of 1991 with the submission of a document containing a report on their activities. The Commission recommended that each tertiary sports structure should nominate three representatives to serve in an Interim Committee for South African Student Sport (ICSASS) with the mandate to draft a constitution and finalise unity in order to establish a unified umbrella structure which would be responsible for the coordination of sporting activities amongst tertiary institutions.  

The year of 1992, was characterised by a series of long debates within the various tertiary sports structures on the issue of establishing a unified umbrella student sport structure. On 21 August 1992, the TSCC met for a fourth time to discuss the report back received on their proposals. All delegates reported that their respective structures supported the concept of an umbrella structure for tertiary sport and that their members are committed to the unity process. The TSCC then handed over to ICSASS to draft a constitution for a unified student sports movement in South Africa.  

ICSASS met three times (23 September; 17 October and 7/8 December 1992) during which motions for a constitution were thoroughly debated. On 8 December 1992, ICSASS completed its work with the submission of a first draft constitution for the establishment of the South African Student Sports Union (SASSU). The Committee also came up with a proposed administrative structure for such a structure. It further agreed that the delegates mandated by each tertiary structure, should carry on as the Interim Committee of SASSU until such time as the first Biennial General Meeting of SASSU was held. All representatives then signed the draft constitution which marked the official birth date for the establishment of SASSU. The draft constitution together with a memorandum regarding the foundation of SASSU, were then circulated to all tertiary institutions for their comment.  

The Interim Committee of the South African Student Sports Union (ICSASSU) met four times (10/11 March; 30 April; 11 June and 17 September 1993) during which the Committee discussed feedback received from institutions. ICSASSU also attended to:

1. the establishment of an office and administrative infrastructure for SASSU;
2. the formulation of a final draft constitution for SASSU which would serve before a Special General Meeting of all tertiary institutions;
3. the establishment of contact with and affiliation to the International University Sport Federation (FISU);
4. the seeking of national and international recognition for SASSU as the official umbrella body for tertiary sport in South Africa;
5. the establishment of subcommittees;
6. facilitating unity in the various sports codes practised at tertiary institutions;
7. an emblem and colours. 

On 11 June 1993, ICSASSU completed its work when all the delegates of the four founder members (SATISU, SAUSC, SATSC and SACSA) agreed upon and accepted the final draft constitution of SASSU. The delegates in the Interim Committee further agreed that: 

1. the final draft constitution would be circulated to all tertiary institutions for their comment;
2. they would promote this constitution amongst their respective members;
3. the constitution would serve at a Special General Meeting (SGM) where all institutions will have the opportunity to debate and adopt the constitution;
4. the SGM be called for 18 September 1993. 

On 18 September 1993, sports administrators and students representing tertiary institutions from all over South Africa, assembled in Durban with the intention to constitute SASSU. This meeting could however not reach consensus on motions submitted by individual members of SACSA aimed at changing the proposed structure of student sport as agreed by the TSCC, ICSASS and ICSASSU in the months and years of negotiations. This led to a heated debate which eventually ended in a vote of no confidence in the Interim Committee and the disbanding of ICSASSU.  

With an obligation towards FISU and the student sports fraternity in South Africa, and after broad consultation with various tertiary bodies, the General Secretary of SASSU requested the founder members of SASSU to nominate persons to serve on a reconstituted Interim Committee in order to continue and finalise the unity process in tertiary sport. After a series of negotiations which also involved the Executive Committees of the CUP and the Committee of College of Education Rectors of South Africa (CCERSA), the various founder members came to an agreement that:

1. the unity process should continue;
2. the reconstituted Interim Committee should finalise the SASSU constitution;
3. the previous draft constitution of SASSU be used as a point of departure;
4. that Prof G J Gerwel, the then Chairperson of the CUP and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, should chair the initial meetings of the newly constituted Interim Committee. 

On 8 February 1994, the newly constituted Interim Committee of the SASSU (ICSASSU) chaired by Prof Gerwel met at the University of Johannesburg (the then Rand Afrikaans University). At the meeting three main points of difference and/or concern were identified, i.e. the issue of a student being the president of SASSU, the composition of the council and the three tiered structure as favoured by the colleges versus regional structures. The Chairperson however made it clear that future deliberations had to be done against the background of national developments in tertiary or higher education which will have a direct effect on sport at a tertiary level. After another three meetings which included broad consultation (14 February 1994, 4 March 1994 and 14 March 1994) the Interim Committee finally reached agreement on a final draft of the SASSU constitution (Draft: 14 March 1994).  

On 16 April 1994, at a historic meeting held at the University of Port Elizabeth chaired by Prof J W Grobbelaar (Chief Director: CUP), the major role players in tertiary sport unanimously agreed to join forces when seventy-eight (78) tertiary educational institutions officially constituted the South African Student Sports Union (SASSU). After four (4) years of negotiations during which many compromises were made, agreement was finally reached on the establishment of a united non-racial national umbrella structure that will represent and protect the sporting interests of all students at tertiary educational institutions.  

SASSU has based its founding principles on a commitment to promote a peaceful, united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society through the medium of sport and sporting contact, where all persons are equal, where all students may compete equally in sporting competition and where the tenets of affirmative action apply based on the equitable provision and distribution of sporting facilities. Attention was also given to the fact of system differentiation in South African tertiary education reflected in the existence of distinct university, technikon and college sectors.  

While the establishment of SASSU marks the start of a new era in South African tertiary sport, it simultaneously concludes the final chapter in the long history of old establishment sport structures like the Sports Councils of the South African Universities, Technikons and Colleges which have made way for consultative sports forums in order to advise the Committee of University Principals (CUP), Committee of Technikon Principals (CTP) and the Committee of College of Education Rectors of South Africa (CCERSA) on sporting matters of mutual, professional and technical interest.


The early years of SASSU was marked with negotiations at various levels with stakeholders in government, sport and higher education in order to establish SASSU’s position within the National Sports and Education Framework.  By June 1996, it became clear to SASSU that the Department of Education had other important priorities and that it would not consider the funding of students sport.  The NEC of the time then recommended that SASSU should be established within the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) with a strong link to the tertiary education sector since SASSU’s responsibility and clientele is within that sector.  SASSU’s patience eventually paid off and on 28 January 1997, when an agreement was reached between the Minister of Education, Minister of Sport and Recreation, Committee of University Principals (CUP), Committee of Technikon Principals (CTP) and the NEC of SASSU, that SASSU be placed under the care of SRSA who will take responsibility for the various development and international projects of SASSU.  The CUP and CTP further agreed to continue with their present financial assistance towards the SASSU administration and to provide for the salaries and benefits of two (2) staff members, i.e. Secretary General and Administrative Assistant.  

On 27 May 1998, the National Department of Sport and Recreation released the White Paper on Sport and Recreation which determines that: “The recognised co-ordinating body for the organisation of sport at tertiary education level is SASSU (South African Student Sports Union).  SASSU’s functions include the following:

a) Implementation of government policy on sport and recreation at tertiary level;
b) Its core business involves sharing of its specialised resources (both human and infra-structural) with the community, maximising participation and co-ordinating intra- and inter-institutional competitions;
c) Making representations to the macro-bodies (NSC & NOCSA) and relevant government departments, with respect to tertiary sport;
d) Liaising with national and provincial federations with respect to tertiary sport;
e) Liaising with its international parent body, the International University Sports Federation (FISU);
f) Facilitating South Africa’s participation at international tertiary education institution sports events.” 


During 2003, the Minister of Sport & Recreation South Africa (SRSA) appointed a MTT Steering Committee, entrusted with the responsibility to establish a Section 21 company to focus on high performance sport in South Africa and to ensure harmonization of the activities of SRSA (who will take on the responsibility for mass participation) with the new body, i.e. SASCOC.  On 2 November 2004, the MTT recommended that USSASA, SASSU and DISSA should continue with their activities, except for the presentation and preparation of “Team South Africa” which will participate in multi-sport international events and which will become the responsibility of SASCOC.  The MTT further recommended that the future positions of these organizations shoud be resolved through negotiations with SASCOC.

In April 2008 and after four years of intense negotiations, SASSU and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) reached consensus on the way forward for university sport in South Africa.  SASCOC agreed that, due to the unique nature of student sport universally, that university sport should continue to exist independently in its current format and that the name of SASSU is changed to University Sport South Africa (USSA).  It was agreed that USSA will proceed as the official national co-ordinating umbrella sports structure for the regulation and organisation of all university sports activities in South Africa, while SASCOC will take responsibility for the preparation and delivery of teams to all high performance multi-coded international events, i.e. FISU Universiades, FASU and CUCSA Games.  USSA in association with National Federations will however still remain responsible for the preparation and delivery of teams that will participate in individual FISU World University Championship events.  The selection of national university sports teams shall be in accordance with FISU Regulations as well as the USSA and SASCOC selection policies.  

On 19 April 2008 at the Annual General Meeting of SASSU, the membership unanimously agreed to the way forward and re-constituted SASSU as USSA.  The current NEC was retained in office.  USSA and SASCOC further agreed to the establishment of a SASCOC Student Sports Commission that will serve as a link between the Executive Board of SASCOC and the NEC of USSA.  The function of this Commission shall be to make representations to SASCOC, National Federations and Government Departments regarding student sport matters at tertiary education institutions in South Africa.

On 13 March 2009, the CEO of SASCOC informed USSA that after a meeting between the Minister of Sport and the President of SASCOC, a decision was taken in relation to the management of student sport, i.e.

  • That USSA takes care of the administration of student sport matters in South Africa;

  • That USSA apply for associate member status to SASCOC;

  • That USSA will then be responsible for all issues around student sport including the preparation and delivery of its teams to multi-sport events;

  • That USSA secure its own resources towards these obligations;

  • That SASCOC will ensure through its federations that the USSA sport codes function within the guidelines of the National Federations;

  • That SASCOC will ensure that its federations monitor the systems used and the quality of performance of the selected athletes.


On 7 July 1993, SASSU's application for affiliation with the International University Sports Federation (FISU), backed by the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the Department of National Education (DNE), served before the General Assembly of FISU held in Buffalo, USA. The General Assembly unanimously accepted SASSU's application and draft constitution which resulted in SASSU being granted full membership of FISU.  

On 17 September 1996 at a meeting held in Zomba, Malawi, SASSU became a full member of the Africa Zone VI student sport family when the Organisation's application for membership was unanimously accepted by the General Meeting of the Confederation of University and College Sports Associations (CUCSA).  

In May 2001, the Secretary General of SASSU presented the Organisation’s credentials to a steering committee of the Africa University Sports Federation (FASU) at a meeting held in Lagos, Nigeria.  SASSU’s membership was confirmed by the General Assembly of FASU at a meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria on 19 May 2002.

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