Photos: Polocrosse action of the highest order in Potchefstroom

Champion thoroughbred horses gallop towards goal in unison with skilled riders in a frenzied possession melee for the ball. Nothing except clouds of dust are left behind in this battle for supremacy where horses and their riders with racquets become one in search of the gaping space between two wooden uprights.
This is just one of the majestic action-filled sights spectators were bound to see in the unique sport of polocrosse that was on glorious display in Potchefstroom over the weekend (30 June–1 July).
It was a historic day when Potch Polocrosse Club and Camelot Equestrian Club hosted the first polocrosse tournament at the Camelot Equestrian Club in 15 years.

Teams from Vryburg, Saints and Inanda in Johannesburg and Walkerville completed the competitive line up of the weekend. Saints A won the A division; Potch A, the B division; Vryburg C were victorious in the C division and Walkerville D took the spoils in the D-division.
‘We are just two small local clubs that are hosting the tournament and I think it will be amazing if we can get the sport off the ground in Potch. It will be special to host a big championship in the future.
‘Today, some of Camelot Equestrian Club’s riders and Potchefstroom Polocrosse Club riders will be in the same Potch-based team,’ said Sanet Britz, the owner and trainer at Camelot Equestrian Club.
The teams entered for this tournament in 16 sections and were further divided up from division A to D, based on their handicap.
‘The kids and women normally start on a -2 handicap and the men on 0. Factors that determine your handicap include your riding ability, your stick and ball ability and your reading of the game,’ she explained.

Photos: Wouter Pienaar

Horsemanship is vital
Horses need to be well conditioned as riders can only use one horse. Horses also need to be able to pirouette, gallop, be quick off a standing start and cool and calm under pressure from the opposition horses. Polocrosse is like playing a fast-paced tactical game of chess on horseback with the added physicality found in rugby and ball skills used in hockey.

‘Polocrosse really brings in the horsemanship element as you have to care for your horse. You only have one horse per game and this is why it is the king of the one-horse sports,’ emphasised SA polocrosse player, Emma Hall.

She also began playing polocrosse with her family at an early age. ‘The awesome thing about polocrosse is that you can play it with all the generations in your family. Some clubs have three generations playing, which is fantastic,’ she said.

Britz’s children also play polocrosse and this is a living testament to the family-friendly, all-inclusive nature of the sport where anyone can play in a team, irrespective of your age or experience. ‘Some of my polocrosse players have been riding for about two months and then we gradually train them how to ride a horse safely, balance on horseback and different stick and ball skills,’ added the experienced trainer who started playing polocrosse for the SANDF way back in 1995.

Best in the world
South Africa can proudly claim to be the best in the world in polocrosse having won the 2011 and 2015 World Cup tournaments, which, in itself, is a tremendous feat. The SA polocrosse players, Emma Hall and Ross Beukes were also at the event in Potchefstroom with Hall giving her insights on SA’s champion pedigree.
‘We have got some of the best horseflesh as far as polocrosse is concerned.

We also have some amazing breeders and trainers. It helps that we train kids from a young age and a lot of youngsters are coming through the ranks. Our team has amazing ball skills and ours are generally better than the other countries.’

According to Hall, another element that gives SA the edge is the ability to reshuffle tactics and break the mould regarding game strategies.
‘When we won the World Cup in the UK in 2011, we still tried to perfect our game with new ideas to give us that edge and it has paid off.’
SA will now defend their crown in Warwick, Australia in 2019 and will be looking to make it a hat-trick of wins on the world’s biggest stage. If the quality of the action in Potchefstroom this week is anything to go by, then the World Cup should be in safe hands.

Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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