Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are involved in many physiological functions of mammalian sperm. Numerous endogenous antioxidants belonging to both enzymatic and non-enzymatic groups can remove excess ROS and prevent oxidative stress (OS). This study compares the modulation of OS by rooibos, Chinese green tea and commercial rooibos and green tea supplements in rat sperm. Male Wistar rats (n = 60) were supplemented with fermented rooibos, ‘green’ rooibos, Chinese green tea, rooibos supplement, green tea supplement or water for 10 weeks while OS was induced during the last 2 weeks. Sperm count and motility were significantly higher for rats consuming fermented rooibos and ‘green’ rooibos when compared with the other groups. Catalase activity was significantly higher in the sperm of rats consuming fermented rooibos, ‘green’ rooibos and both the rooibos and green tea supplements. Superoxide dismutase concentration in the sperm of rats supplemented with fermented rooibos, ‘green’ rooibos and green tea was higher. Sperm glutathione levels of rats consuming the fermented and ‘green’ rooibos were also significantly higher. Rooibos fermented and ‘green’ rooibos showed a tendency to lower the levels of ROS and lipid peroxidation when compared with the control group. In conclusion, both rooibos extracts could offer a measure of protection against induced oxidative damage by increasing the antioxidant defence mechanisms and thereby improving the sperm quality and function. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.