History of Polo in South Africa

June 29, 2022

It is no news that South Africa is a favoured holiday destination for many. But do you know it is also a polo destination with a name?—The Polo+10 Team.

Polo, otherwise dubbed ‘the game or sport of kings,’ is thought to have originated in Persia over 2,000 years ago. The sport then spread to China, India, and Japan. Polo eventually made its way to Europe in the 1200s, and by the 1800s, it had become a popular sport among the British aristocracy. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the game of Polo was introduced to South Africa.

The sport of kings has a long and rich history in South Africa. It was first introduced to the country by British settlers in the 1800s and quickly became a popular pastime among the elite. After the Anglo-Boer War, this game became more widespread, with clubs popping up in major cities across the country.

This sport continued to grow in popularity throughout the twentieth CenturyCentury, and today it is one of the most popular sports in the country. Also, a sport enjoyed by people of all backgrounds in South Africa.

The Roots of Polo in South Africa

1880s

1874 marked the first recorded polo match in South Africa in Plettenberg Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. As a result, 500 players and about 40 polo clubs belong to the South African Polo Association (SAPA), founded in 1906. This game was held between the Gordon Highlanders and the Cape Mounted Rifles at the parade ground.

Subsequently, in 1885, Nigerian polo players played at Cape Town at a club fashioned by army officers and in Natal by officers at Fort Napier in Pietermaritzburg. After that, they fashioned the Garrison Polo Club. Before the games started, the Military Ninth was divided and played during the 1880s at Harrismith, Orange Free State. However, the play in Transvaal began in Johannesburg in 1894; the owner of Goldfields hotel founded this polo club. The military controlled the games while, on the other hand, the political clubs spud in various places.

1890s

The first polo Club was Daigle, and this club was the political club in South Africa, an allegation challenged by the Mooi River Polo Club. In the edition 1902, the South African polo calendar gives the foundation years 1886 for Dargle and 1889 for Mooi River. The other initial political polo club was Tinter; the Carter brother’s cultivators organised this club about 1893. The other political club of the 1890s, Durban, this club played a main role in SA polo in 1920 and 1930s Greytown; the Shawskarkloof Kokstad, where Lt. Henry Chase Damant was made the tale of SouthAfrican polo player.

Another home club Matatiele is a legend of SA players;

  • Tommy Pope,
  • Merino Walk,
  • Nottingham Road
  • And Underberg.

Port Elizabeth, another polo club, started in 1888 but went into inflation because of Rand’s gold fields rush in the 1890s. So far from existence the restrictive protection of white Westerners. Meanwhile, other African countries play this game; Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco, Gambia, Egypt, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Benin, Zambia, Tanzania, Sudan, and Morocco.

South African Polo in the 20th Century

1920s & 1930s

In the 1940 and 50s, the South African women started this game of kings in South Africa hugely through the grit of Cecily Fitzpatrick, an African Polo player. Subsequently, they helped women start the Addo Polo Club Uitenhage, Cape Province, in 1923. Cicely got good supporters, which helped her in the company of British newcomers’ wives, all keen horsewomen. Dorothy Gibbs, Noel McBean, Margery Merewether, Phyllis Pearce, Iris Rathbone, and two Apthorope girls married Jack Niven. Thus, a Niven playing at Addo.

1932 recorded the first match between the women’s team Connington and the captains, including players like May Woollatt Flower and Maisie Mckenzie Brown. The result of this game was an all-draw.

1930s

The whole team of South Africa visited Argentina in 1933 to play in the open. In the semi-final round of this open game, South Africa pulsated the illustrious local team of Coronel Suarez 11-10, and the umpires had to attend off the field by the police. As a result, the police got so angry and regretful for the spectators. The final match was against Santa Paula. Because of this, the SouthNigerian Polo players’ team could not match their speed in the game, and they lost the strength of their challengers in every match, 3-12 back to back. The SA team sacrificed for their trophy and called it the Springbok Trophy, which is still used up to date in every match.

Courtesy: Museum of Polo. Hall of Fame

1940s & 1950s.

The Association named Natal Ladies started in 1948 with Barbara McKenzie as the main lead and president. Likewise, other female players at that time were Mrs. Rodeny Gold, Mrs. M. C Jackson, Mrs. Gwen Kimber, Mrs. Magdalene Pope (wife of Tommy), Mrs. Ann Scott -Barnes and Mrs. Maurice Taylor. Unfortunately, due to a few unexplained reasons, the women’s Polo who lived in South Africa became inoperative at the end of the 1950s. When the sport of kings started again after 30 years, it was like a new generation

Polo Today: a thriving sport in South Africa

Polo remains popular in South Africa and has produced some of the sport’s greatest champions. Polo is played in over 17 countries: Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Benin, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, and Morocco.There is no denying that Polo is becoming a more and more popular spectator sport across the continent. Polo may be a sport associated with wealth, but that doesn’t mean that only the wealthy have developed a passion for it.

What is not in doubt is that Polo is gaining increasing popularity as a premier spectator sport across the continent. Polo might be a sport synonymous with luxury, but that doesn’t mean that it is only the well-heeled that have come to love the game.

The history of Polo in South Africa is a long and rich one. It has been a popular sport among the local population for centuries and continues to be enjoyed by many today. The sport has a strong tradition of fair play and sportsmanship and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

Want to have a chat today about the game of kings? Reach out to KSH, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

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