Cape Town - Reigning
Polocrosse world champions, South Africa, recently returned from a three-Test
series in Australia where they tackled opponents who had never
been beaten on their own soil.
The South African team, skippered by Jan
Albert Steenkamp and coached by Bruce Maclarty, might not be well known to the South African public, but in the world of Polocrosse they
are stars like Richie McCaw or Sachin Tendulkar.
Africa are champions of the last two Polocrosse World Cups, claiming
the title held previously by Australia.
In 2019, the next World Cup with be held in Australia, where the
Australians will be determined to claim back the trophy and the South
Africans will fight to keep it and make history with a hat-trick of wins.
snatch victory over the world champions and get into their heads
before the next World Cup, a South African men’s team was invited Down Under for a three-game series. Having
never lost against any other international team on their home turf, the hosts were
go according to plan for the Australians, however, as the men from Africa
underscored exactly why they are the world champions with a resounding 3-0
series win in what has been described as one of the toughest and most
competitive Polocrosse series' ever.
his return, coach Maclarty reflected on the series: “All the games were
incredibly hard, the first game was a ‘let’s see how good we are’ game. It was a game we obviously wanted to win, as it
would set us up for the rest of the series. But we were going into unchartered
waters. We haven’t ever played against a full men’s side, it was an unknown
factor going into the game and there was a lot of uncertainty about it.”
uncertainty and pre-match nerves South Africa were able to triumph 31-21 in a
closely fought game.
Proteas No 1 Graham Maclarty, son of coach Bruce,
was in fine form, consistently getting the better of the Australian defence,
thanks largely to a tireless supply of ball from his No 3, Travis Timm
who went on to win the man of the match award.
Having secured the crucial opening win, Maclarty
went on to describe the second game as critical.
“The second game was a different kettle of
fish, because if you win that you win the series. So, we put a lot of pressure
on ourselves to be really good in that game. Australia came out incredibly physical and they were desperate to level
up the series. Although it wasn’t the
hardest game, it was certainly the most physical of the three. But it was one that we had to win, to stay on
course to make history, and so we battled it out and claimed the victory.”
game around in the sixth chukka, Graham Maclarty, along with
Nico van Wyk and Travis Timm, scored an amazing seven goals to Australia’s one. With the game ending
28-24, captain Jan Albert “Jannie” Steenkamp, the 62-cap international player,
leading his section with Stefan Harris and Attie van Wyk, showed his experience in this history-making game by keeping his head
and holding his ground.
added a comment on the second game: “We had the worst possible start and at one
stage we actually found ourselves 11 goals to three down in the third
chukka. We managed to claw our way back
and by the end we beat them by four goals. They really came at us hard and with everything they had, we were just
fortunate enough to have a brilliant coach and management group behind us which
helped absorb the pressure and turn it around.”
game started slowly for South Africa, but the trio of Maclarty, Van Wyk and Timm
caught up once again with a massive 6–0 scoreline in the sixth chukka. They kept the scores close and it
was neck-and-neck while both teams fought to keep the lead. Enduring great pressure, South Africa crept
ahead just as the whistle blew for full-time, taking the win by one point with a
final score of 28-27.
Maclarty said post-match, “In the third game, everyone thinks the pressure is off, it doesn’t
matter if you lose, but for our team it mattered hugely. We were there to win 3-0, we were there to
stick it to the Australians. As the
score reflects, it was certainly the closest game. How they let us win I’m still not sure, but
it was a testament to the character of this team to come from 10 behind and to
hold their nerves when it certainly could have gone either way in the
sense of deep respect, Steenkamp remarked about the Australians, “They have been
one of the top countries in Polocrosse of the past 50 years, so they are
right up there with the very best. For me personally, this Test series was the
hardest I have ever played, the Aussies
are exceptionally good in their own country and on their own
horses. Australia is and will
always be one of the hardest international competitors.”
At the end of the series, South Africa took the prize
of man of the match (Timm) in the first game, both man of the match in
the second game and man of the series went to Graham Maclarty. And an award South Africa can be very proud
of, playing on Australia’s horses, they received Best Horse of the Series, a
gelding called Bud, owned by Trent Collins and ridden by Timm. This gives testament to South Africa’s
amazing riding ability and horsemanship.
with Maclarty how he feels going forward, he said, “I’m always
thinking of new things to try and new things to experiment with, but after this
victory, we must stay focused and stay grounded.”
find out what’s worked for us and make sure we are on top of that part of our
game. And what worked for us was not
only in the playing but the management, the administration, the extra-mural
activities around the horses and the horse care. By caring for our horses so carefully during
the games, we always had really ‘fresh’ horses toward the end of each
game. This played a massive part in our
success and is vital if we are going to win big games. I don’t know exactly where we will end up but
we will keep trying to be different, that’s my motto and I firmly believe it.”
As the name
implies, Polocrosse is a combination of elements of Polo and Lacrosse. The basic form of the sport was first seen
being played in England in an indoor arena. It was created to improve the riding skills of students such as balance,
co-ordination, control and just overall confidence.
In 1938 a
couple of Australians caught wind of this and after watching it being played,
brought the concept back to Australia where they developed the game into what
we know today.
is a team sport designed to force players to pass the ball among themselves
engaging the entire team to work together. Each team is made up of six players which is split into two sections of
three. The names of the positions are
simply the “One” who is the attack or striker player and the only person
allowed to score, the “Two” is the centre or midfielder and the “Three” is the
normally three or four chukkas in a game which comprise of 6–8 minutes. The field, being a little larger than a
soccer field, is divided into three sections with two end zones on each end and the
midfield being the middle section. The
“One” and the opposing “Three” of each time are the only players allowed in
their respective zones and the “One” can only score when he or she is in the
end zone. The ball isn’t allowed to be carried into the end zones but must be
either bounced or passed. You score when
the “One” throws the ball between two posts. One point is awarded per goal thrown and the aim of the game is
simply to score more points than your opponents.
Polocrosse world champions (Shannon Gilson)