Night School

Vrrrpha: A South African Golf love story


‘A cult-classic. It is a part of the South African culture like boerewors and biltong. It is as if Germany made a car just for us’

These are the words of local motoring journalist, Charlen Raymond, describing the Volkswagen 8 GTI after sampling it at its premiere in 2021. Boerewors is to South Africans what currywurst is to Germans; a culinary classic. South Africans love a lot of things namely, beer, wine, music, sport, a braai, using the word ‘shame‘ and definately cars. In celebration of 50 Years of Golf, let’s go on a journey to understand the love affair between South Africans and the VW Golf.

It all started in May 1978 when the first-generation Golf was launched in South Africa (four years after its European debut). The Mk1 GTI arrived in our market four years later in 1982. Whilst the Volkswagen Golf celebrates 50 years worldwide, in South Africa it is a 46-year old brand with, as Raymond puts it, a cult-like following. In Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia and Botswana), the Volkswagen Golf has sold in excess of 175 000 units with over 50 000 of those being the Golf GTI (VWSA internal sales records only date back to 1994, so these figures are incredibly higher).

When it comes to cars, South Africans are hot-hatch and ‘bakkie‘ mad. South Africans love the pick-up so much, they gave it its own unique name.1 When South Africans love something, they give it a nickname and that is true for the Golf range, particularly the Golf GTI. Additionally, if South Africans REALLY love something, they’ll make a song about it; again this is also true for the Golf and Golf GTI.

Volkswagen is one of the most loved and most popular vehicle brands in South Africa with a 73-year history in the market. And as such, in our market Volkswagen cars have the following nicknames; Polo Bujwa (Polo), Slay Queen (Polo GTI), 20-20 (Golf 2 GTI), Vura (Golf 3 and Jetta with the VR6 engine), Cara Cara (Microbus or Caravelle), iNkomo and iBus Lomjolo (Kombi), R Mashesha (Golf R). The most popular nickname is ‘Vrrrpha‘  which is a nickname reserved only for the Golf GTI.

The Vrrrpha nickname is unique to South Africa and it describes the giggle-inducing popping noise made by the Golf GTI’s dual clutch gearbox when changing gears during acceleration. The next time you engage launch control in the Golf GTI, listen out for the ‘Vrrrpha‘ sound and if you don’t own a Golf GTI, but would like to hear how South Africans pronounce Vrrrpha, here’s a compilation:


The Golf brand has a long and successful heritage in South Africa and the locals have a beautiful and colourful history with the brand. Did you know that in South Africa, VW cars have the most songs written and made about them?.

One of the more popular songs is ‘Cara CaraOpens an external link‘, which is a song about the nostalgic feeling one gets when inside the Micro Bus/ Caravelle. This song was made famous by hip-hop artist K.O featuring KidX and it was the first South African music video to surpass one million views on YouTube. To date, it currently sits on 7.1 million YouTube views.

The song ‘VuraOpens an external link‘ by South African artist DJ Citi Lyts featuring Sjava and Saudi, which is about the Golf 3‘s fitted with the VR6 engine, describes the love and appreciation of the VR6 engine by car lovers in the townships. The chorus of the song depicts the pride one gets when seen driving around the township streets in the Vura.

Another undoubtedly popular song is called VrrrphaOpens an external link by Focalistic featuring Vigro Deep. Here, artist Focalistic perfectly blends upbeat Ama-piano (a popular music genre which originates in South Africa) sounds with an infectious drum beat and the actual Vrrpha sound of a Golf GTI to produce a song which will have you tapping your foot under the desk.

South Africans have had a 46-year long love affair with the Golf brand and long may it continue.

For our international readers:

1In  South Africa vehicles like the Amarok are not known as pick-ups, they are called a ‘bakkie‘.

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