Although Ultimate arrived in South Africa long after it was first played in the USA, Cape Town was nevertheless far ahead of the rest of the country in terms of catching on to the game. As long ago as the late 1980’s games were being played in the Western Cape. Sponsored by Frisbee, the early pioneers of disc sport in the Western Cape participated in both Ultimate and freestyle.
As key drivers of the movement left the city, interest waned and soon the regular gatherings of disc enthusiasts were becoming less frequent. But Justin Smith, the man regarded by many as the father of Ultimate in South Africa kept the sport alive and, against all odds laid the foundations and structures that still support the game in South Africa to this day.
In reaching out to WFDF, Smith set up SAFDA, the local governing body. Initially SAFDA was only active in Cape Town and through his efforts Ultimate started to grow again. By the mid 1990’s there was small yet intense Ultimate scene in Cape Town. New blood had joined the ranks and people like Ant Pascoe, Hilton Horwitz, Alan Shapiro and Steve Porter joined Smith in growing the game.
Pick-up was regular and intense, several times a week – but it was very much pick-up, and although the quality was good, there were no tournaments. There was however a development initiative with the players coaching regularly at township schools in an attempt to grow the game. Those early efforts paid huge dividends with guys like Asanda Nanise, Asanda Ntshanga, Thabane Vusane and Derek Ntsume all starting out their playing careers at primary school level before coming through the ranks to win SA Nationals several times and to play for South Africa.
The Cape Town scene did not grow quickly, but it continued to grow. A major turning point in the games development was the decision to send a team to Worlds in 1998 in Minneapolis. Led by Pascoe and featuring quality players like Smith, Horwitz, Ryan Males and Conrad Vermeulen the team performed well and returned to Cape Town inspired by what they seen. A year later Cape Town hosted the first ever SA Nationals tournament with four teams participating.
Grant Kaufman donated the trophy, now known as the Kaufman Cup, that is still the prize for the winner to this day. That initial nationals which only saw teams from the Western Cape in attendance grew the following year when Johannesburg attended. In each subsequent year the number of teams attending grew, as did the number of teams from Cape Town. By the time Nationals 2012 took place there were eight Cape Town teams amongst the 16 sides that participated – there was also a team from Stellenbosch. 2015 saw the largest field ever, with 20 teams competing for the national title.
From its humble beginnings, squatting on fields and playing pick-up, Cape Town Ultimate has grown to support six fully fledged club teams operating from five different venues.
Homes of Ultimate in Cape Town
1996-1998 Westerford High School
1998-1999 Pinelands Oval
1999-2001 Hamiltons RFC
2002- 2005 Gardens tech Rugby Club
2005 Rondebosch Boys Sports Fields
2006 – 2011 Wynberg Sports Club
Major Cape Town Ultimate Teams: