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About SA Polo

Polo was introduced to South Africa by British cavalry regiments garrisoned in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa in the late 19th century. The first recorded tournament took place at King Williamstown in 1885. The British troops had, in turn, learnt the game in India not very long before this.

There is a mistaken impression that polo started with British royalty whereas in fact its origins lie somewhere in Persia or China. The word “polo” comes from the Gugerati word “pulu” meaning “ball” and there are tapestries depicting the sport dating back to the fourth century. The game swept across the Asian continent and it is a well known fact that the cruel Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, took to it with alacrity – even using enemies’ heads as practice balls!

Far from being the exclusive preserve of White westerners, polo is still very popular in India, Pakistan, Brunei and some more remote regions reaching into Nepal (where it is played on elephants). Many African countries, particularly Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, play polo and we have annual social tours with many of them. The curtain raisers before each Test include players from the Junior Coaching Clinic where a number of development players learn the game.

The South African Polo Association was formed in 1905 and is the controlling body of polo to which five polo provinces are affiliated – Highveld, East Griqualand, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and the Cape. SAPA is, in turn, affiliated to the Hurlingham Polo Association which is the generally recognised world body of polo. There are about 38 clubs in South Africa and about 400 players.