Thursday, 9 June 2011


With the 2011 season now well underway albeit to a disrupted start from excessive rains and AHS, there has been a lot of confusion on some of the new rules implemented by the HPA. There are basically three major changes that will affect our polo:

The turning rule is probably causing the most confusion. Bear in mind there is really no change in the rule as a “cross” has always been a “cross” but over the years it has developed into a divine right to cross an opponent in the act of turning the ball. The rule is now very specific and Rule 33(a) stipulates that you may not turn left or right across the line of the ball/right of way. Thus the moment a player in possession checks or slows down to turn the ball either way, the umpires will be alerted to ascertain whether he is going to commit a foul. For the foul to be awarded, the player following must remain committed at such a speed and distance that were he to continue down the line a collision or near collision would have resulted. Remember the player following must be in the “channel” and cannot expect the foul if challenging from an angle outside the “channel” because under such circumstances he is not on the line of the ball and the player turning the ball isn’t committing a “cross”.

The player with the ball has the option of hitting it forward or playing a backhand. He can also hit a cut shot to his offside and take up the new line without fouling provided he does not check or slow down in doing so. Likewise, he can play a neck shot but umpires then need to be mindful that his next shot will be on the near side to avoid crossing a player following the new line. From an umpire’s perspective the criteria is the element of danger in each case – is the player following committed and if so is the gap closing between the following player and the player checking to turn the ball thereby creating danger.

The “One Tap” rule 33(p) has been amended in that the distance from the player with the ball to an opponent who is deemed to be challenging has been increased from one horse length to two. More significantly, the penalty for such a breach is no longer a Penalty 7 (throw in) but a Penalty 5(a) or hit from the spot except where the defender is in breach within his own 60 yard area when Rule 40(e) comes into effect.

The third major amendment is the “zero tolerance” factor where the right of a captain to ask for an explanation has been withdrawn. Players are expected to behave in a sportsmanlike manner and for many years this has not been the case. Abuse of umpires and opposing players has dogged our polo fields for far too long. At no stage may a player, including the team captain, approach or shadow either umpire after the whistle has blown. Nor may any player query a decision of the umpires – this includes any sort of gesture to another player, the officials or spectators.

When the umpires agree that a foul has been committed they will announce only the name of the team that has fouled, what the foul was and the penalty awarded. For example – “foul by red for blocking. Penalty 4”.

If unsportsmanlike behaviour occurs during play, the umpires should blow the whistle and a technical penalty (Rule 38) be awarded against the team or perpetrator. If the incident occurs outside of play after a penalty has been awarded then umpires should upgrade the technical penalty. Another important change adopted by HPA is the referee’s ability to award a technical penalty from the sidelines and to be more involved with the game particularly where radios are in use.

Lastly, the Provincial Chairmen have been informed that if they would like an umpire’s clinic aimed at clarifying these rules I am more than willing to hold one at a date convenient to them. I have various clips of video footage which shows examples of the turning rule foul (or no foul.

Clubs please bear in mind that newcomers to polo must be assigned a “S” (Starter) handicap until such time as they are competent enough in the opinion of the Club Captain to take part in a low goal tournament. It is important that such players (for their own well being and safety) only participate in Club chukkas – club and tournament organisers from other provinces must be cognisant of the player’s status and may not enter a player into a tournament still carrying a “S” handicap.

Clubs must ensure that all “S” handicap players are familiar with the rules – it is compulsory for Starters to write the “C” grade rules test before elevating their handicap to -2 status. Note only -2 players and above may enter a tournament. The “C “grade rules test can be down loaded off the SAPA website or obtained from me.

The South African 14 goal team to take part in the Zone D playoffs in Malaysia leave on 9 June and will play their first pool game against Nigeria on June 13. South Africa has a favourable draw meeting Pakistan in their second pool match on 18 June. Thereafter it will depend on the points scored as to who plays who in the next round.

Sadly, Sbu Duma failed a fitness test and will not be accompanying the team abroad. The ligaments in his knee have been troublesome for some time and he will need medical attention to rectify them. Sbu has been replaced by Johann du Preez from East Rand Polo Club who will leave with the team on Thursday next week. The full squad travelling to Malaysia is as follows: 

- Terence Spilsbury (4)
- Duncan Watson (4)
- Lance Watson (4)
- Campbell Macnab (3)
- Shaun Brokensha (3)
- Johann du Preez (2) 

The team’s progress will be monitored with regular reports back to SA.

SAPA regulations governing pony welfare are available for viewing and down loading on the website. Please familiarise yourselves with these to avoid confrontation with the Club or Provincial Welfare Officers. Pony care and condition is a delicate subject and regulations are now in place to prevent abuse to our polo ponies. One of the SAPA missions emanating out of the North Road Consulting strategy session was to improve the public’s perception of polo hence the guidelines and rules governing this.

The SAPA website has had a complete makeover and revamp thanks largely to the efforts of Bridget Macduff. Please visit the new look site and pass any constructive comments onto Bridget if you have any. The handicaps went awry with the upgrade but these should have been rectified by now.

The 2011 BMW International Series will again take place during August this year. Australia will be bringing a 21 goal team to play SA at Shongweni and Inanda. The Springbok rugby players play the Wallabies in Durban the day before and BMW have promised to have both teams attend the polo international at Shongweni. Hopefully the boys in green and gold will pull off a grand slam defeat for both disciplines. A squad of available players was announced at the conclusion of Inter provincial last weekend:

- Selby Williamson (5)
- Russell Watson (5)
- Brad MacGibbon (5)
- Gillespie Armstrong (5) 
- John Eustace (5)
- Rory Bryden (4)
- Duncan Watson (4)
- Terence Spilsbury (4)
- James Kane Berman (4) 
- Davey Evans (4) 
- Sbu Duma (3)

The Team to represent South Africa will be announced at the conclusion of SA Champs in July. 

The dates of the children’s coaching clinic has been moved a week later to accommodate children from the Highveld who will still be writing exams during the last week of June. The new dates for the Clinic are 4-7 July which falls between the “Dads & Lads” tournament in Underberg and SAPA Cup at Richmond giving fathers/sons the opportunity to play at either or both.

In the past it has been customary to pick two SA Schools teams at this Clinic to play in the curtain raiser matches at Shongweni and Inanda. The development teams now do duty at both these events so a “North” and “South” school boy team will be selected instead. These two sides will compete against each other at the President’s Cup where the national selectors will select a South African Schools team to play Zimbabwe schools in August.

There are a number of tournament date changes due in part to the excessive late rains in various parts of the country, AHS and player availability.

Free State Champs     old date – 15-17 April    new date – 1-3 July
Natal Champs            old date – 13-15 May      new date – still to be determined
Karkloof Classic         old date – 10-12 June     new date – 15-17 July (Karkloof tourn date)

These and others are on the website under the fixtures tab.

Numerous Clubs (especially in KZN) are receiving exhorbitantly high quotes from ER24. A previous news letter outlined the contracted daily price for paramedics and ambulance so please contact me if your Club’s quote is not in line with these. I will take it up with ER24 head office and make sure the tariff is rectified.

A very successful IPT was held at East Rand Polo Club last weekend. This year the tournament consisted of only the “Open” section and was contested by three provinces, namely, East Griqualand, Highveld and Free State. Teams were as follows:

Cambridge East Griqualand (19 goal)  
Mike Osborn (3), Selby Williamson (6), Duncan Watson (4), Russell Watson (6)

Royal East Griqualand (17 goal)          
Rory Bryden (5), Chippy Watson (4), John Eustace (5), Campbell Macnab (3) 

Free State (17 goal)                         
Johan Groenewald (4), Sipho Spilsbury (4), Gillespie Armstrong (5), Terence Spilsbury (4)

Highveld (17 goal)                        
Davey Evans (4), James Kane Berman (4), Brad MacGibbon (5), Duncan Ellis (4) 

All matches were evenly contested with the only run away score being a big win on the Friday for Cambridge EG over Free State. Saturday drew the first surprise of the tournament when top rated Cambridge EG only managed to draw with their fellow provincial team Royal EG in a close fought 11 all draw. This result laid the tournament wide open for Sunday fixtures compounded by Free State’s win over Royal EG. This ensured the last game between Cambridge EG and Highveld being a true final and no one gave the Highveld side much of a chance against a team studded with youth and two experienced SA players. The first few chukkas proved this with EG well up after the half time break in a pretty one sided contest thus far. Highveld went into the last chukka requiring five goals and looked dead and buried. Duncan Ellis held the team together with solid leadership and defence while the three younger players  up front chipped away at the deficit to eventually draw level with about 20 seconds remaining on the clock. James Kane Berman picked up the throw in from the line out and ran half the length of the field to score the winning goal much to the delight of the many Highveld supporters.

MVP for the tournament went to Campbell Macnab
Best Playing Pony – Brad MacGibbon’s pony called “Satan”

That’s all for now – look forward to plenty of polo action in the weeks ahead. Please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions or queries.

Executive Director – South African Polo Association

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