July Newsletter

Aug 07 2018

Firstly, a very big thank you to all in the polo family for their best wishes during my recent stay in hospital. I am happy to report that I am on the mend and getting stronger every day.


I am delighted to announce that Nedbank have signed as Title Sponsors for the Johannesburg International for the next three years. The value of the sponsorship is such that it is equivalent to that of the BMW deal whilst the Nedbank package is for Johannesburg only. In addition, Heineken has signed as a Brand Partner for the event. The event will be known as the Nedbank International Polo. The only stipulations from Nedbank are that the international be held at Inanda with the date changing from the 9th September to Saturday the 15th (one week later). We have engaged with Inanda and negotiated a competitive venue hire fee for the three-year period. The Nedbank sponsorship deal was dependent on SAPA hosting the event at Inanda which means the new grounds at Riverfield will be used for SAPA tournaments such as SA Champs and inter provincial. We will also investigate renting the venue for various corporate functions to raise much needed revenue for operational costs. SAPA has issued an invite to Australia for a 16-goal team. We were reluctant to pitch the level any higher at this late stage given the problems we had in mounting the Uruguayans in 2016. Selection for the South African team is open to all affiliated SAPA members country wide. Preference will be given to those who have consistently lent horses for past events. Very NB: Players wishing to make themselves available for selection should forward their names to this office before 25th August 2018.

Pony lenders will be paid R1,500 per horse per chukka if selected by the Australians. Payment will be dependent on the horse being fully kitted with a groom in attendance. The owner will be responsible for providing food & beverage for his groom on the day. Transport to and from the venue will be covered by SAPA as will pony insurance. Ponies will be insured for R100 000 which will cover permanent disability during transport to and from the venue, practice chukkas as well as the international match. Only a Declaration of Health will be required from the owner – no veterinary certificate.

Because there will be no marquee available to SAPA as in the past, we have allocated 5 picnic sites on the West Bank for pony lenders and the two teams. Food, in the form of picnic hampers, will be provided by By Word of Mouth whilst alcoholic beverages will have to be purchased through them. Due to the limited space available at Inanda, there will not be an HPA tent for affiliated players as in the past. Instead, SAPA will sell picnic sites at a substantially discounted rate to members. Bookings for picnic sites can be made through Vicky Harris on the email address vicksharris@gmail.com  Please note this offer only applies to players who have affiliated as full members and not Temporary members. An email providing details will follow this newsletter in due course.


I have had numerous reports of ill-discipline and bad behaviour at various tournaments over the past few weeks. You will recall SAPA introduced zero tolerance some years back to combat this. Sadly, the level of zero tolerance has slipped with players resorting to abusing umpires as well as their own team mates and opposition players. This includes abuse in the pony lines between chukkas and at the conclusion of games. This has resulted in an unacceptable level of negativity which is threatening the spirit of the game, the way it is being played by some, not to mention spectator enjoyment, and more importantly sponsors - who are intolerant of anything which impacts negatively on their brands. Many players/umpires appear to be unsure of the rules pertaining to the implementation of the yellow and red cards. Sadly, the time has come for these to be implemented more strictly in conjunction with zero tolerance. With this in mind numerous suggestions have been mooted to improve umpiring and the implementation of the rules:

  • Suggestion that all players write the rules and umpires tests before being allowed to umpire
  • Suggestion that all provinces introduce the system currently in use in the Highveld which appeared in my last newsletter
  • SAPA conduct clinics around the country to provide training to players on umpiring, the rules and implementation of the yellow and red card.

The system currently in use in the Highveld works very well and is worth consideration by all the provinces. For those readers interested, I have included the mechanics of this from my previous newsletter for your information. Notwithstanding that, umpires will be instructed to enforce zero tolerance which means no communication with umpires during the chukka by anyone. Only the team captain may query a decision at the end of the chukka after he/she has changed his/her pony.  Umpires must ensure there is no verbal abuse towards fellow players and opposition members. Transgression of this will invoke a yellow card. It is vitally important we clean up our act if we want to grow this beautiful sport and attract sponsors and spectators.


Many of you may have heard that the HPA are enforcing the use of safety compliant helmets in their 2018 season. Players in England will not be allowed to take part in tournaments unless their helmets are compliant and meet the new safety standards. SAPA follow HPA Rules so strictly speaking if HPA introduce legislation regarding safety helmets we should too. Given the high cost of these helmets, SAPA Exco decided that it would be unfair to implement this with immediate effect and opted rather to phase the compliance helmets in over a three-year period. This will give players ample time to plan/budget for a new helmet. An article that appeared in the Polo Times was sent via email for your info.


Exco agreed that we would use 2018 as a trial year for the new rule format and it’s important that the year should be completed before making permanent changes. We have encountered some challenges with the format, particularly in KZN and EG so Exco has made some recommendations for the balance of the year. We have to recognise that the playing conditions throughout South Africa are vastly different between the provinces. The playing surfaces and weather conditions during December in Plettenberg Bay are vastly different to that of KZN in June and it may be understandable that a 4.30min chukka in KZN is too short. It’s clear that the future of Polo in SA may rest heavily on SAPA’s ability to become flexible according to various conditions such as horse management and chukka lengths. However, the fundamental rules need to be standardised from 2019 (referring to the line-out etc.)

We continue to play the trial rules namely:

  • 60 yard hit in after a goal has been scored
  • One direction for half the game

Time and number of chukkas:

  • We recommend that matches played from 2 goal and below remain at 4 chukkas
  • This to assist players with only 2 horses
  • 6 minute chukkas are recommended adhering to the rules above

3 goal and above:

  • Clubs to decide on how many chukkas and time played (minimum time 4.30-min and maximum time 6-min, first bell)
  • SAPA recommendation is to lengthen chukka time by 1 minute (first bell at 5.30)
  • Clubs must clearly advertise on their entry form’s the number of chukkas and time per chukka

It is important to recognise that we have not recommended a 7 minute chukka as there are no lineouts after a goal has been scored. A traditional lineout would allow horses and players an average of 28 seconds to get some rest. Based on an average scoring game of 14 goals this equates to roughly 6.30 minutes of rest time which is potentially lost.
The idea of allowing clubs to decide will allow further trials to take place before the next Executive meeting to be held in November.
At this meeting, we would expect all Exco representatives to have fruitful feedback on the various trials so we can make informed decisions for 2019.

From my previous newsletter.


Due to the lack of qualified umpires in the province, exacerbated by the high number of low goal players with little knowledge of umpiring, the Highveld Executive introduced a system whereby all its affiliated players were allocated a rating of “Rated” or “Non-Rated”. The initial ratings were conducted by the Club captains in conjunction with the Chief Umpire. Only rated umpires are used to umpire at tournaments and are paid R200 per chukka after their mandatory umpiring duty (traditionally all players are required to do an umpire duty at tournaments). Funding to cover the payments for rated umpires is derived from a R500 levy imposed on the entry fees of non-rated players – these players are not required to do any umpiring duties at all. The initiative is not a money-making effort and is designed that the income derived from the umpire’s levy is sufficient to meet payments to rated officials. It does improve the quality of umpiring in all matches especially those played at the lower levels i.e. zero, two and even four goal. It also serves to encourage non-rated players to learn the rules and attempt to become rated umpires. In order to become rated, prospective umpires must pass the HPA rules and umpires test and then gain umpiring experience during club chukkas under the supervision of their club captain. Once the club captain is satisfied they know the rules sufficiently and have a proficiency to umpire at lower levels they are screened by a Committee and graded to “Rated” or otherwise. Whilst the system is not perfect and imposes a considerable administration burden on office bearers, there is no doubt that the quality of umpiring, and by extension, player satisfaction in the lower levels, has improved dramatically. I am of the opinion that other provinces should introduce a similar format. Depending on club entry fees the figures can be adjusted accordingly provide there is still enough incentive for rated umpires to officiate more than one match per weekend. Clubs wishing to have their tournament details and results included in newsletters, please feel free to send the relevant information to this office.

That’s it for now - as usual, any comments and/or suggestions are always very welcome.
Managing Director – South African Polo Association