Thursday, 22 September 2011


The 2011 BMW International Series was a great success despite the terrible wet/cold weather conditions at Shongweni. The visiting Australian team were a great bunch and made many friends here in South Africa. They played really good polo and were happy to play whatever ponies were given to them. In the end they were superbly mounted thanks to the generosity of our pony lenders - the South African Polo Association is extremely grateful to all those players who unselfishly lend horses. Without this support your BMW International Series would be a non starter and your Association’s income stream seriously affected. The teams who did duty are as follows:


1. Kelvin Johnson (5)
2. Andrew Williams (5)
3. Matt Grimes (5) Captain
4. Rob Ballard (5)
Reserve Will Gilmore (4)

South Africa

1. Selby Williamson (5) Captain
2. Brad MacGibbon (5)
3. Russell Watson (5)
4. Gillespie Armstrong (5)
Davey Evans (4)

South Africa lost the Series 2-0 but not without a fight and some good polo. Matt Grimes and Rob Ballard showed their class playing very good constructive polo clearly demonstrating their professional approach and good horsemanship.
Interestingly, the two Blesbok matches played against the Aussies ended in draws when the handicap differential was taken into account. This is a great opportunity for South Africa’s younger players to pit their skills against touring teams and it is my belief that these matches should be promoted into bigger events.

The following handicap changes were made at the last handicap meeting of the SAPA Handicapping Committee. The changes will be effective from the 10th January 2012 as most of the polo outside of the Cape will be winding down.

  • Duncan Watson 4 to 5 
  • Michael John Marlton 4 to 5
  • Brad Gace 4 to 5
  • James Hackland 3 to 2
  • Dirk van Reenen 2 confirmed
  • Byron Watson 1 to 2
  • Cody Ellis 1 to 2
  • Joe Mandy 1 to 2
  • Craig James 1 to 2
  • James Brice 0 to 1
  • Andrew Jonnson 1 confirmed
  • Guy Clegg 1 confirmed
  • Eugene de Bruin 1 to 0
  • Rob Barras 0 to 1
  • Richie Hogg 0 confirmed
  • Nicky Williamson 0 confirmed
  • Aaron Pagel -1 to 0
  • Dean Storah -1 to 0
  • Cameron Chubb -1 to 0
  • Dan Ronan -2 to 0
  • Craig McCord -2 to 0
  • Blake Chubb -2 to -1
  • Clair Heaton Nicholls -2 to -1
The South African Schools team consisting of Byron Watson, Dirk van Reenen, Cody Ellis and Forrest Caine travel to China on the 2nd October to take part in an Under 18 tournament involving three other countries. They will be hosted by the Metropolitan Polo Club in Tianjan and will be accompanied by team manager Greg Caine. All are in good form having recently won the 6 Goal Section at Natal Champs. We look forward to their progress in China.

South Africa has been invited to take part in a “Snow Polo” tournament hosted by the Metropolitan Polo Club during February 2012. The intention is for 16 national teams to take part at 14-16 goal level on a knockout basis i.e. 4 pools of 4 playing each other within the pools and the top two teams from each pool advancing to the quarter finals. My understanding is that each participating team will be awarded a sponsored budget to meet expenses. We await further details in writing.

We have also had an invite from New Zealand Polo for a 22-23 goal team to tour New Zealand during the first two weekends of February next year. This tour will clash with the China trip but we have sufficient high goal players to accommodate both invitations. So, there are opportunities a plenty for our top players to represent South Africa abroad next year. More details will follow in due course.


The finals of the FIP World Cup will take place at the Estancia Grande Polo Club, San Luis, Argentina from 10th – 21st October. South Africa, unfortunately will not be there as a result of our loss to Australia in Malaysia.
The annual General Assembly council meeting of FIP will take place on 24th October in Buenos Aires. I will be attending this meeting on behalf of SAPA where no doubt the question of South Africa hosting the 2014 Zone D playoffs will be discussed. Hopefully, we will be better equipped to make an informed decision once the mechanics of the tournament are outlined.

A Johannesburg events Company, in conjunction with SAPA, is planning an equestrian extravaganza next year in May to span over two weekends with numerous functions and fashion shows packed in between. The first weekend will feature horse jumping featuring jumpers from all over the world followed by “action polo” the second weekend. The plan is for eight cities (four local and four overseas) to compete on a knock out basis for a place in the finals. The event will take place at Willoughby (Stonefield) Johannesburg and will provide another source of income for the Association. If successful, the event could become an annual event in the city.

The 2012 fixture list is in the process of being finalized. There was much criticism of this year’s calendar exacerbated by the wet winter conditions country wide. There have been a lot of suggestions from players to plan tournaments on back to back weekends followed by a “free” allowing players to practice with their Clubs – especially those that are short of numbers and struggle to play polo when Club members are away at tournaments. With this in mind and to minimize transport costs the plan is to follow the Plett Easter season (where reciprocity between EG/KZN and local Cape players can take place) with two high goal EG tournaments followed by a break and then two Highveld tournaments. These need to be fairly early in the season before the major frosts set in. These would be followed by another break and then two major Natal tournaments. Club tournaments would be interspersed in between where ever best in consultation with the Provincial Chairmen.
Handicap levels for all provincial championship tournaments, Karkloof Classic and SA Champs will be increased from 12 to 14 goal – the FIP International level but more importantly to suck in more two and three goal players into higher goal polo. The effect of this will (hopefully) give younger 2’s and 3’s the opportunity of playing faster polo and subsequently take them to the next level.
With these tournaments set at 14/6/0 levels an overall prize will be awarded to the team winning the most tournaments. This will encourage teams not to change too much and form the basis of a mini league. An individual prize will also be awarded to the player with the most points in each section based on the success rate of the player. We will be looking for a sponsor for this. Tournaments would be weighted according to the degree of difficulty in achieving success i.e. winning SA Champs would earn more points than say Natal or Free State Champs.
The calendar will also include a Ladies section in as many of the major tournaments as possible – such as the Underberg High Goal, Karkloof Classic, Inter provincial and maybe the President’s Cup. The latter could form the basis of a selection tournament for the ladies to play an International during September/October next year.
These are all ideas planned for the 2012 polo calendar – any suggestions would be welcome.

The Association’s professional umpiring policy is still very much on track with a few new members eager to join the initiative. I am hopeful, budget permitting, to sponsor SAPA’s professional umpire’s at all major tournaments which should ensure a measure of consistency at these events.
Thankfully, on field discipline has improved during the latter part of the season and umpires will be instructed to keep it that way. The introduction of the “Yellow Flag” system has been partly responsible for this – a necessary aspect if we want to adhere to the NRC mandate of promoting polo in South Africa.
That’s the wrap for the time being – I wish all those Clubs holding tournaments in the ensuing week’s lots of fun and good exciting polo.

Executive Director – South African Polo Association

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