Tournaments put Plett back on polo map

John Harvey

PLETTENBERG Bay’s reputation as the home of South African polo is set to be restored, thanks to a “wonderful” holiday season of tournaments that included an international invitational between South Africa and Britain at Kurland this week.

While the coastal town, known as the “jewel of the Garden Route”, was world-renowned as a polo mecca in the mid-2000s, the sport’s presence has tapered off in recent years, partly due to the economic recession.

At the height of polo’s popularity, the sight of fashionistas sipping from dinky champagne bottles while watching the world’s best in action had become as ubiquitous as the tourists who descended on Plettenberg Bay each year.

However, an “unexpected” crowd attendance of 1500 people for the invitational at Kurland on Sunday suggests that polo’s star is again beginning to rise.

Event organiser Alicia Brokensha said the last international of this calibre had taken place in 2009. “We have been trying to make the public aware that there is still a strong polo culture in Plett. In December we had the players from SA and Great Britain parade their horses through Main Street. It was something different, but it seemed to have created awareness,” she said.

“The invitational on Sunday was very well attended. We expected about 500 people to watch, but in the end we had about 1500 supporters. Considering that this was a non-sponsored event, we were very happy about that.” The showpiece event was won by Britain 8-6.

Brokensha said the economic downturn had affected the sport, and had also changed the way in which it was perceived. “I think it has become far more family-orientated in the past few years.

“You will often find the same names in teams these days, suggesting that it is a sport that has increasingly become one the whole family can participate in. You also find that the different seasons bring a different type of player. Over summer we get a lot of Europeans, whereas over Easter you will get [South African] players from places like Joburg.”

She said it was hoped that Plettenberg Bay residents would again be proud to have their town known as the home of polo in South Africa. The last round of the summer season takes place in Kurland on Sunday.

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