A Who’s Who Guide to Navigating South African CS:GO

I’m doing this as much for the benefit of you, our valued reader, as for Sargon and Zombie Dredd. Why, you ask? They’re cretinous Counter-Strike noobs. Ignorant in the ways of the flame and the flashbang. Philistines unaware of the great feats of skill and the sheer brilliance of the Sonics and the Domsterrs of CS:GO’s upper echelon in South Africa. This will help even their wide-eyed slack-jawed faces register understanding. This is all about who’s who and what’s what for those who haven’t been following the game locally. I’m looking forward to the day that we all come to the same understanding and mutual admiration of the best of the best in this, the most venerable (and freaking awesome) of all competitive shooters.

Which team should I be shouting for?

The most pressing question has to be: “Who is the best team in South Africa and where can I buy their official shirt, join their fanclub and get a tramp stamp tattoo of their logo?” Well, you might not be asking it in exactly that way…
The question of who’s the best (and therefore who should I care about) doesn’t actually have a clear answer right now. Which makes being a fan really exciting! In the past few years Bravado Gaming have been the undisputed powerhouses of South African Counter-Strike. They have won almost every title, with only the occasional loss to undermine their best of the best credentials. When one team wins everything it can get a bit boring at times. Bravado have perfected crushing their opponents into an art. And they often make it look easy.

Bravado Gaming preparing for the ESWC Qualifier Grand Final at Rush. Photo Courtesy of MaddMatt

Enter the revitalised Energy eSports that have gone from perennial second place finishers to consistent challengers and now champions in their own right. It got so bad at one point that their most consistent star player, Domsterr, used to call himself 2ndsterr. One would have thought the team was dead and buried after yet again failing at the last hurdle in the ESL Africa Season One Grand Final in mid July. Through a monumental blunder of their own making, they lost with the match at their mercy. With the introduction of the highly experienced Blackpoison a few months prior, Energy immediately looked a more cohesive unit. No longer just a group of talented individuals, but a cohesive team. When Energy rosters of yore would have crumbled, this lineup used their latest defeat as motivation to come back stronger. A week later their comprehensive 3-1 victory over Bravado at the ESWC Qualifier finals at Rush Expo showed they’d banished those second place demons and announced their arrival at the very top.

Energy eSports CSGO after winning the ESWC Qualifier Grand Final at Rush. Photo Courtesy of MaddMatt

It’s very likely these two behemoths of the Counter-Strike scene will trade blows and grand final titles for the foreseeable future. There’s always plenty of emotion and passion when these two sides face clash. I for one, can’t wait to see them collide at the next big competition.

Which other teams are important?

The best of the rest right now starts with Big 5 Esports. They’re looking much improved after their first competitive season in ESL Africa and are probably the team closest to Bravado and Energy in the top tier. The other big name (Ed: He really likes puns) is Damage Control. This venerable lineup of skilled veterans have played CS for all 17 years of it’s existence and have multiple titles in previous version of Counter-Strike. Most notably Counter-Strike 1.6. They’ve never quite captured that elusive trophy in CS:GO and have been in a bit of a slump lately. Can the self-proclaimed 3rd best team in South Africa reclaim their spot on the podium from usurpers Big Five?

With their exciting blend of skilled aimers and experience, the exciting new kids on the block, Goliath Gaming, could place well in tournaments going forward. Other big names in the scene in no particular order: Flipsid3 Tactics, White Rabbit Gaming, xTc Gaming, Veneration E-sports, eXdee Gaming, Aperture Gaming, Ventus Gaming, Southern5 and Pulse Gaming.

Who are the superstar players?

You of course need to know where to direct your underwear when throwing your panties (Ed: or Y-fronts) at that dreamy headshot machine with all the right moves on the server as a sign of your appreciation.

Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek of Bravado Gaming is just the man you’re looking for! In contrast to his fiery hair, this young prodigy seemingly has ice flowing through his veins. Sonic calmly puts down everything and everyone that wanders into his path with apparent ease. Equally adept with a rifle or AWP, he’s inarguably one of South Africa’s best hopes of a player finding international stardom.

Sonic at the ESWC Qualifier Grand Final at Rush. Photo Courtesy of MaddMatt

Energy eSports’ Dominic “Domsterr” Sampaio is no longer 2ndsterr. He’s the guy who saves his best performances for the matches that matter most. In recent months, Bravado have often been on the receiving end of getting Domsterr Dumpstered. He is the strong silent type that combines exceptional talent with on-server smarts. He quietly goes about his business destroying the dreams of his opponents. A contender with Sonic for best in the country.

Domsterr at the ESWC Qualifiers during the Grand Final at Rush. Photo Courtesy of MaddMatt

Star snipers, Dimitri “Detrony” Hadjipaschali of Bravado and Robby “Blackpoison” Da Loca of Energy are former teammates that both wore the blue of Bravado. They find themselves on the opposite sides of the AWP scope now. Both are incredibly experienced, abundantly skilled and highly motivated to make their team the best in the country. A grudge match worth keeping an eye on.

Top players from other teams to keep an eye on are young firebrand Alexander “Spartan” Lazarides of Big 5 and the surgeon (of headshots!), Jannie “Hellhound” Van Niekerk of Damage Control. There’s so many exciting names I’ve left out, but only so many words…

Where can I watch them play?

Check out ESL Africa Season 2 every Monday and Thursday night from 6:45 p.m., where the best teams from South Africa and North Africa battle it out in their own northern and southern conferences. The finals will be hosted at rAge Expo in Johannesburg, the biggest gaming event of the year. In five weeks we’ll see the top two teams from South Africa versus the top two from North Africa, with the final on Saturday the 7th of October. It will determine the African continental champions. It will be massive – just like the better part of R2 million on offer for the teams participating. As an added bonus you get to see my magnificent face on the broadcasts (Ed: nobody wants to see that).

The other big finals at rAge will be the VS Gaming Masters Finals where 10 teams will face off for a share of R500,000. After a long and gruelling year of competition in the now completed online group stages and the mid year VS Masters LAN, it will all come down to this tournament at the traditional home of competitive Counter-Strike. Sunday the 8th of October, the two finalist will try to pry the lion’s share of the prize pool away from their rivals.

The year will be capped off with Orena’s Championship Series in mid December at their impressive new purpose-built esports studio at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. Qualifying teams will get stuck into each other one final time this year to try and take home a bit of Christmas bonus… a cool R700,000 prize pool.

We are still yet to hear from Mettlestate and Mega8 as to their plans for the remainder of the year. Both are premier tournament hosts that put on really successful events earlier this year. Let’s hope they’ve got something exciting up their collective sleeves to blow us away with before the year is out.

What do I do now?

South African Counter-Strike is full of interesting characters, great stories and incredible tournaments. It’s a vibrant scene with some fascinating encounters and superb action happening every week being broadcast at the same standard as anything produced in Europe or America. It’s worth a look.