November Newsletter

Nov 26 2015


After a long and protracted battle, costing the Disciplines considerable sums of money in attorney fees, SASCOC finally realized that equestrian sport could not continue pursuing their political agenda and that the sport should be run and governed by the Disciplines.

To this end SASCOC agreed that the fourteen Discipline Association heads would sit on the SAEF Council with a vote. The previous Provincial Presidents would no longer have a seat on Council but in order to satisfy the Sports Act and the Transformation Charter would remain in office in a political role. In other words, Disciplines would be responsible for running the sporting codes whilst the Provincial heads would assist with political matters such as funding allocations from the Department of Sport and Recreation, provincial colours, registration of Clubs to Districts etc.

SASCOC met with the Disciplines to amend the SAEF Constitution and elect a new President, Vice Presidents and Secretary/Treasurer. These are as follows:

President                                          Andre Truter (formerly the President of Polocrosse SA)
Vice President (FEI)                        Eric Bianci
Vice President (Non FEI)               Shelly Beckbessinger

It is a SASCOC requirement that all Disciplines amend their current Constitutions to conform to the Sports Act with the same principle filtering down to Provinces and Clubs. To this end I have drawn up draft constitutions for SAPA and the provinces for approval and ratification at the next SGM. These will be distributed to the respective provincial chairmen.

SASCOC are insistent that clubs must be aligned to their geo political provinces and that they register with the Districts within their jurisdiction. Some Disciplines, including SAPA, are not supportive of Districts due to the extra costs of administrative. My understanding is that in future the Provincial Presidents of the SAEF will be replaced by a duly elected President from one of the Disciplines. For example, in Gauteng, all Discipline Provincial Chairmen would meet to elect a President who would represent the SAEF at provincial level. This will ensure that provincial equestrian sport is administered by a person with equestrian knowledge. The duly elected Provincial President will have to relinquish his Discipline Provincial President’s position. Likewise at District level.

SASCOC are making serious threats about the lack of transformation in equestrian sport i.e. no black representation in administration, provincial and national teams, coaches and other officials. A partial solution to resolving this would be to register all goal judges, timekeepers and scorers as affiliated members. SAPA will look into a separate free affiliation category for “officials” on the online website portal. Further details of this to follow in due course. Although the new dispensation will place a heavy administrative burden on SAPA members (at national and provincial level) the upside of it is the Disciplines will now run/administer their sport without interference. The threat of handing over assets and funding to the SAEF is no longer an issue.

SASCOC are of the opinion that many of the Discipline office bearers at national and provincial level were not elected democratically. They have instructed the SAEF to conduct elections across all fourteen Disciplines at both levels. Although many Disciplines (such as SAPA, PASA and Tentpegging) already have office bearers democratically elected, SASCOC are adamant that all codes call SGM’s to adopt an amended constitution and elect new (or the same) office bearers. Either SASCOC or the SAEF will have an electoral officer in attendance.


The irrigation scheme at Bridgemead is now complete with a pump/pipeline from DSC’s 200 000 litre reservoir down to the East Bank side of the field. Strategic hydrants have been installed along the length of the East Bank for connection to a travelling gun. The scheme will provide strategic irrigation providing better growth and improved grass cover. It will also allow increased usage of the facility without excessive damage to the surface for the BMW International.


South Africa hosted an English ladies team during SA Champs at ERPC. The English ladies each played in a team with three South Africans on the Friday and Saturday with the international match against South Africa on Sunday afternoon. The English team consisted of Hazel Jackson (1), Claire Brougham (0), Lottie Lamacroft (0) and Emma Boers (0) whilst South Africa was represented by Candice Kane Berman, Jossie Spilsbury, Amy Gace and Jo Spilsbury with Alida Vermaak as reserve. The English girls were delightful visitors, with never a moan and always grateful for everything that was done for them. They were also skilled riders and very good polo players. They convincingly beat the South African ladies by 9 goals to zero.

Although a disappointing result, there were positives emanating out of the tour. It highlighted the South African ladies weakness in carrying the ball and not playing backhands but rather attempting to turn the ball.   A problem for most of our ladies is that they rarely get to play as a foursome generally playing with three men where they are told to play up front. Hence they rarely get the opportunity to distribute or play in the back and/or three positions. A possible solution to this could be to conduct a series of coaching clinics whereby 8 ladies are invited to a weekend of coaching (Saturday/Sunday) and given instruction on playing in different positions and the art of distribution. These clinics could be repeated for additional groups at various levels of expertise. I would like to record SAPA’s thanks to all those who assisted with the English tour – in particular, Alida Vermaak who did an amazing amount of behind the scenes work to make the tour the success it was. To Selby Williamson for coaching the South African team, Deirdre van Reenen who managed the ladies and most of all to those who generously provided the English ladies with horses.  Natascha Baecher through her link to the AAP has extended an invite for a low goal South African ladies Invitation team to play in Argentina during January 2016. After discussions with SAPA’s lady representative and Exco it was agreed that ladies who had supported SAPA over the past year should be rewarded with selection.

The team finally agreed upon between the national selectors and Exco is as follows:

  • Karen Pilling
  • Beth Shaw
  • Amy Gace (Captain)
  • Alida Vermaak

We wish the ladies a successful and victorious tour !!


The 2015 Series was once again a huge success. The playing surface at Shongweni was probably the best it has ever been. Unfortunately, inclement weather on the day had a significant effect on attendance figures despite an aggressive radio advertising campaign. New Zealand were very well mounted and my thanks to the pony lenders who generously provided sufficient quality horses. New Zealand, in particular JP Clarkin, showed their class in coming back from a 6-0 deficit to run out winners by a goal at the end of the sixth.

The demand for tickets at Waterfall has mushroomed over the past two years. It appears that the BMW day in Johannesburg is the place to be with waiting lists for picnic sites and no additional space for corporate marquees. The demand for general public tickets has also increased with seating space becoming more and more restricted. Attendance figures for Waterfall were just short of 10 000 and those who attended were treated to an exciting game of polo. Finding sufficient quality horses in Johannesburg proved a challenge but in the end the tourists were well mounted. Again, SAPA’s sincere thanks to those who put forward horses for the New Zealand team.

Much has been said regarding the merits (or otherwise) of the pony lending system that has been in place over the past years. There always appears to be a major panic leading up to the event but in the end sanity prevails and the tourists are always very well mounted. The system has worked well for many years but has come under strain with fewer high goal players available to lend horses.

With player numbers down, the pony masters experienced difficulty in sourcing sufficient quality horses for the Waterfall Test. This was further exacerbated by members of the South African team often picking the eyes out of pony lender strings leaving fewer ponies for the tourists to choose from. This year only one South African player rode all his own horses. The other three all borrowed horses thereby reducing the numbers available to the touring team. Maybe the player contracts should be amended to prevent this. Players availing themselves for selection should have sufficient horses of their own before being considered for the national team. Had this been the case this year there would have been nine or ten really good horses available for New Zealand to choose from.


The 2015 Prince of Wales Cup took on a different format in that the traditional provincial teams were replaced by inviting the top 16 players in the country to participate in four equal strength sides.

The reasons for this were to afford the high goal players an opportunity of playing high goal polo over two consecutive weekends (SA Champs at ERPC and POW Cup) in preparation for the BMW Series. It also provided the national selectors with an opportunity of selecting form players and determining how these players would react under pressure situations.

The system wasn’t all plain sailing and came with its challenges. Some high goal provincial players chose not to make themselves available unless they could participate as a provincial team and chose rather to play in the eight-goal section. Others opted out of the tournament altogether.

In my personal opinion, the spirit and competitive edge of inter provincial was lost. This was particularly evident at prize giving where four players under the banner of “Free State” received the honour of winning the Prince of Wales Cup. SAPA’s obligations to the sponsors had to be kept intact in keeping the tournament “inter provincial” but in essence it was nothing more than another high goal tournament. I believe this competition needs to revert back to its proper format and remain strictly “inter provincial” even if it means at a lower goal level to suit all provinces. This will restore the traditional rivalry between the provinces and provide them the opportunity of being crowned the best playing province.

Despite the above, the tournament itself was a great success with the sponsors already looking at renewing the contract for a further three year term. Of concern to SAPA were the exorbitant ticket prices levied by the sponsors despite earlier remonstrations regarding this. Any new contract negotiations will require more involvement from SAPA regarding budgeting and finance if we are to prevent polo being stigmatized as elitist and overly expensive.


The 2015 SAPA Coaching Clinic for children was held at the Karkloof Polo Club in July. The Clinic was again a great success as evidenced by the numbers illustrated below despite the absence of children from Zambia (the dates clashed with their school term). The Clinic ended on Thursday 2nd July with the traditional mini matches and pony parade. After prize giving the SA Schools team to play against a SA Development team in the curtain raiser match to the BMW international was announced:

1                     Chris Lund

2                     James Crowe

3                     Martin Watson

4                     Cody Williamson (Captain)

A zero goal SA School’s mixed team to tour Zambia over the weekend 21-23 August was also selected:

1                     Kelly Ellis

2                     Lerey Young

3                     Grant Louw

4                     Ross Williamson

Both teams acquitted themselves well. My special thanks to the coaches who gave up their time to coach the various age groups. In particular Selby Williamson and Duncan Ellis who spent the entire four days at the Clinic. Our grateful thanks also to Mike Benson, Philip Benson, Ingrid Benson, the O’Sullivan family and Beth Shaw who hosted children during the clinic. Beth Shaw’s equine academy kindly provided instruction and lecture material on various topics of equine management. A special thanks to SAPA’s President for Honeydew’s generous sponsorship of juices and drinking yogurts and to Mike Griffith’s “Rocksteady” for the colourful team shirts.The Clinic was well attended with a total of 52 children from all the provinces.  The statistical breakdown is as follows:

  • KwaZulu Natal                   23         
  • East Griqualand                14
  • Free State                           5
  • Highveld                              6
  • Cape                                    4

Total boys: 31
Total girls: 21

Entry for the 2016 Clinic will stipulate that children must be equipped with protective glasses. This has now become an HPA rule and is essential in preventing serious eye injury. The duration of the 2016 Clinic may be shortened to 3 days (Monday to Wednesday) as feed back from some parents feel the four day course is too long. Your comment and/or feedback on this would be appreciated. Demand for the Dad’s and Lad’s tournament has also waned – we battled to field four teams this year. Perhaps this tournament has past its sell by date and might be worth removing off the SAPA calendar.


South Africa has to date been part of Zone D for the FIP World Cup playoffs. Zone D has proved far too large and diverse and includes countries from the whole of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and part of the Middle East. FIP have in their wisdom decided to split Zone D with the formation of a new Zone E. The “new” Zone D will include the following countries:

FULL MEMBERS:                               CORRESPONDING MEMBERS:                    CONTACT MEMBERS:

Australia                                              Brunei                                                               Nepal

New Zealand                                     Philippines                                                         

Malaysia                                              Singapore

Thailand                                              South Korea


Hong Kong



Whilst the new Zone E will include the following:

FULL MEMBERS:                               CORRESPONDING MEMBERS:                    CONTACT MEMBERS:

India                                                     Iraq                                                                   Ghana

Oman                                                   Lebanon                                                         Uganda

Pakistan                                              Kenya                                                               Zambia

Qatar                                                    Sudan

South Africa                                        Tunisia

Nigeria                                                 UAE

Egypt                                                     Zimbabwe



It remains to be seen whether Zone E will hold its own against other stronger Zones with South Africa being the only country having a strong player base and pool of quality horses.


The Grand Champions Polo Club issued an invitation for a twenty three-goal team to take part in the 2015 USPA International Cup. This will take place on the 28th November in Palm Beach. It was envisaged that the same team selected for the BMW Series would play in this prestigious event. The team had to be tweaked slightly due to the unavailability of some members of the SA squad. The final line up is now as follows:

  • Selby Williamson (5)
  • Chris MacKenzie (6)
  • Gareth Evans (6)
  • Tom de Bruin (7) (Captain)

The US team to compete in this match is as follows:

  • Marc Ganzi (1)
  • Jeff Hall (7)
  • Julio Arellano (8)
  • Nic Roldan (8)

It looks like our boys will have their work cut to win this one !!!


Mooi River Polo Club is arguably one of the oldest active clubs in the country. Regrettably the situation at the Club premises has become untenable with the following problems:

  • The area in which the grounds fall is managed by the Mooi River Municipality with the lease up for renewal.
  • Stray cattle and goats occupy the ground causing serious damage to the playing surface in wet weather.
  • The soils are predominantly high in clay content necessitating regular irrigation in the playing months. This is no longer feasible due to continual theft of equipment.
  • The area is in very close proximity to a large dump site resulting in constant litter all over the premises.
  • It is difficult to maintain horse paddocks and club house facilities due to the theft factor.

Given the above, Graham Armstrong and his committee have been actively involved in finding a new venue. Nottingham Road is the most suitable being a central venue for players and supporters. It is also fast becoming a popular area for holiday homes and country estates. The committee have identified a site on Andrew Dewar’s farm just outside the Nottingham Road village and are actively involved in negotiations to build one or possibly two fields on the property. This will require a lease agreement between the parties as well as substantial earthworks in levelling the playing surface. Our thanks to Graham and his committee for the many hours of work applied in getting this project off the ground.


This was ratified at the last Exco meeting and for the first time in many years seemed to satisfy all the provincial requests/calendar dates. The list was emailed to all members on SAPA’s database but I attach herewith again in case you never received it. That’s all I have for now. All that remains is for me to wish you all a happy Christmas and good polo for those playing in the Western Cape over the holiday season. I hope the present weather conditions break soon providing some meaningful rain. Gauteng is extremely hot and dry and it appears as though the water authorities here are in bad need of stable management – they are only starting to impose water restrictions now when the water is all but finished. Talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!!

As always, any comments or suggestions on any of the above topics are always welcome!
Executive Director – South African Polo Association