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Land Rover dominates the polocrosse Highgoal tournament ~ Robyn Klaasen

Land Rover Durban successfully hosted the inaugural Highgoal polocrosse tournament over the last weekend in May (27-28 May). The picturesque setting of the Durban Shongweni Club combined with impressive displays of polocrosse played by some of South Africa’s best and topped off with a fancy black tie gala dinner meant only one thing- those who weren’t there certainly missed out!

 

 

The event saw eight teams fighting it out in a number of games over the weekend to win the prestigious title. The four men’s teams were generously sponsored by Branson, Zambeze Delta Anti-Poaching, Alzu and Durban Land Rover and the four ladies’ teams by Alzu, Team M&M, Rhino Truck Sales and Team Evoque. In the end however, it was both Land Rovers’ men’s and ladies’ teams who came out on top. Land Rover Durbans Team Evoque for the ladies division walked away with R10 000 cash following an incredibly impressive performance over the two days, and after a nail-biting, highly competitive final, Land Rovers men’s team also walked away with the prize of R12 500 cash as well as the title that started it all- first ever winners of the Land Rover Durban Highgoal!

The finals for both the men’s and ladies’ divisions were held on Sunday. With teams so evenly matched it was difficult even for those who have been around since the beginning of competitive polocrosse in South Africa to pick the winners. At one point the commentator even mentioned that the teams with the best horses will be the ones who come out victorious. Whether this was true or not, Land Rovers Team Evoque beat Team M&M 16-12 with Alzu finishing 3rd with a score of 16-15 against Rhino Truck Sales. In the men’s division, Zambeze Delta Anti-Poaching lost to Branson with a convincing score of 32-25 and Land Rover finished the day off with an impressive win against Alzu, beating them 35-24.

Not only were both Land Rovers’ teams winners of their divisions, but Jean Hackland- member of the Land Rover Evoque team also won Most Valuable Player in the ladies division as well as Best Turned Out Pony for her horse Mayhem. Andrew Haynes who captained the Land Rover men’s team also took home the prize for Most Valuable Player in the men’s division and his horse Vault of Value won Golden Pony for the tournament. Their Australian ‘import’ Lance Anderson walked away with the award for Best No. 2 player.

“It was a fantastic event overall with world-class polocrosse players bringing their best to the field,” said event organiser and Shongweni Polocrosse club chairman, Brent Von Benecke. “Shongweni experienced the usual glorious weather for this time of year, and there was a great turnout with hundreds of visitors coming to witness the fast-paced action.”

Being a High Goal tournament, each team consisted of six players with a combined handicap of between 42 and 45 (out of a possible 60) where 0 is a beginner and 10 a world-class player. Showing its calibre, the tournament welcomed two 10-handicap players – Jannie Steenkamp and Graham MacLarty – to the field.

Shogun’s Journey by Ryan Hosking

There have been many legendary horses to have graced the polocrosse arena over the years; well-known beauties that have been simply outstanding at the game. I can think of a few off the top of my head: Buccaneer – ridden by James Hackland; Rio and Speedy – of the Maclarty family; and Holly – ridden by Andrew Heynes. And then there are countless lesser-known horses that have served their riders well for years on end and have been faithful, much-loved servants of the game. My horse, Shogun, probably falls into the second of these categories.

I first started riding Shogun when I was around 11 years old. I was fairly new to the sport, and had previously played three other horses: Folly, Blaze and Bullet. All of these horses were old, gentle animals who were perfect for a beginner but couldn’t take me much further than that. We bought Shogun when he was only 3 years old, and after training him up for a few months my dad decided that I should get on and try him out. I can remember being terrified of riding a new, young horse and leaving behind the safety and comfort of the older horses, but my dad can be stubborn at the best of times and insisted that I give him a try. And so I tried him out in the paddock at home, and after one ride decided that this was the horse for me!

It so happened that I had just been selected for the first time to play for the Under 14 KZN Midlands team, and Interprovincials were coming up soon. Despite having only ridden Shogun for a few weeks, I decided to play him at the tournament. I used to play in the Number 1 position at the time, and that was where I started the tournament. After the first game, however, it became evident that Shogun might make a good Number 3 horse. On a number of occasions, he spun so quickly out the front of the lineout that he beat both Number 3s (out the BACK of the lineout) and allowed me to get onto the ball first and go score. I thus moved to the Number 3 position, and that’s how things stayed for the next 11 years!

Shogun continued to get better and better as the years went on, and he carried me through every level of the game. He had a phenomenal left-hand turn, and knew instinctively where I needed to be on the field (often better than I myself knew). Around 5 years later, we were playing in the A division and he was competing spectacularly well at the back of the lineout against some of the best horses in the country. He often was so quick to turn that I had to force him to stay in the lineout a little longer for fear of getting blown up for an early turn! He also developed a useful “leap” drive whereby he would spin and then do a little leap forward before continuing to drive and chase the ball/opposition.

Shogun and I got to know each other’s every motion: he knew exactly how I liked to play, and I knew what all of his strengths and weaknesses were. We became so adapted to each other’s styles of play that whenever I rode another horse, I didn’t do as well, and whenever anybody else rode Shogun, he didn’t do as well! I developed a routine warm-up that I would do with him before each game: gallop onto the field; stop and do a few spins; do some360 turns on the spot (much to the amusement of some of my teammates); walk backwards and then jump forward; and stand in the centre of the field and practise setting up for the lineout.

I continued to play Shogun in the Number 3 position in A division for another 6 years. That in itself is a respectable feat for a polocrosse horse, but on top of that he played in 4 international series and a World Cup. Remarkably, aside for the odd lamie, he was only injured once during the 11 years that I rode him – and that was owing to a minor horsebox incident, not an on-the-field injury! He was the most solid, ever-ready horse I have ever encountered. In the last couple of years that I rode him, Shogun started displaying signs of his age, but he never stopped outspinning other horses at the back of the lineout!

Eventually, in 2015, I decided that Shogun was ready to have a well-deserved retirement from fast-paced polocrosse. The last chukka of our last game was a memorable moment – our team came back from being 7 goals down and scored 8 goals to win the game! I was and am still in awe of this amazing horse and the polocrosse journey that he has taken me on. Shogun never once won a “Golden Pony” award, but in my mind he deserved them all – a true champion!

Shogun is now 15 and will be spending his remaining years continuing the legacy playing polocrosse with Karen and Gavin Cocker’s children living in beautiful green pastures in the KZN Midlands country side.

Also that we have Gauteng Champs coming up 18 – 19th June at Arnot near the Eastrand Polo Club.