October Newsletter

Oct 26 2017


The amended chukka format adopted by Plett Polo Club last December and Easter was tried during the Stephen Stewart Memorial tournament held at East Rand Polo Club a few weekends ago. The basic format was as follows:

  • Chukkas were shortened to 4:30 mins with the usual 30 seconds extra time after the first bell. Given the shortened chukka time, the 3 minute change time between chukkas was strictly adhered to with the umpires instructed to blow the whistle after 2,5 minutes as a warning to the teams. Umpires were also instructed to bowl the ball in after three minutes had elapsed irrespective of whether the players were on the field or not. 
  • The number of chukkas was increased from 4 to 6 per match. The actual playing time being equivalent to 4 chukkas of 7,5 minutes each.
  • The match was separated into two “halves” consisting of 3 chukkas in one direction and three the other.
  • The direction which a team was to commence playing was decided by a coin toss before the start of the match. The team continued to score in that direction until half time where upon teams changed ends. ��
  • Each half was started with a line out in front of the main crowd irrespective of where play ended.
  • The other chukkas were started with either a line out from where the play ended if the chukka ended with the ball in play, a hit in if the ball went over the back line when time was called, or a line out if the ball went out over the boards.
  • After each goal was scored, the defending team took a hit out from the 60-yard line, with the attacking team having to keep a 30-yard radius distance from the ball. Very important – umpires were instructed place the ball and call “play” only once all 8 players were in position (provided no player deliberately wasted time in getting back into position).

Positives to the format were as follows:

  • Line outs, where most injuries to horses and players occur, were reduced with the resultant increased safety to horses.
  • Very few horses came off the field at the end of the chukkas “blown” and were able to be repeated in later chukkas.
  • It is generally known that most injuries occur to horses during the last two minutes of a 7 minute chukka. This format should, in theory, eliminate such injuries.
  • Playing three chukkas in one direction and three the other, made it easy for spectators to understand the game.
  • Delays in getting back to the centre after goals were scored were eliminated making the game more spectator friendly.

Negatives – some of the old bullets found the increased tempo tiring!!!!! All the participating players without exception enjoyed the format and it might be worth clubs in other provinces trying the format in a future tournament on an experimental basis.


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 umpire 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 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 low 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, mostly in the lower levels, has improved dramatically greatly reducing levels of dissatisfaction amongst the players at tournaments. 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.


The FIP World Polo Cup is currently underway in Sydney, Australia. For your interest, herewith some results of matches to date:

  • Argentine - 12 vs USA - 9,5
  • Australia - 10 vs Spain - 9
  • England - 16 vs India - 1
  • Chile - 9 vs New Zealand - 2
  • Argentine - 12 vs Spain - 3,5
  • USA - 7 vs Australia - 5
  • Chile - 11 vs India - 2

Seems like India are out of their depth whilst the Argentines are clear favourites – surprise surprise!!! If anyone would like information on the composition of the teams I am happy to provide but they are also available on the FIP website.


The 2018 fixture list will be finalised on the 8th November at the SAPA Executive meeting. This will be distributed shortly thereafter to all on the data base. Also under discussion at this meeting will be the following:

  • Midlands International scheduled for May 2018 at Lions River
  • Proposed new polo venue at Ballito
  • Low goal polo tours between south Africa and New Zealand

Further details of these will be communicated in my next newsletter


We have a meeting with BMW on the 15th November to finalise the 2018 Series.

Should Clubs wish to have their tournament details and results included in the newsletters please feel free to send the relevant information to this office.

As usual, any comments or suggestions are welcome.
Managing Director – South African Polo Association