Protea Polocrosse team to represent SA at 2015 World Cup

The Protea Polocrosse team will compete against the world’s top international teams at the Durban Shongweni Club, in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN). The Polocrosse World Cup official opening ceremony will commence on 2nd July, with the first round pool games starting on 3rd July; semi-finals and finals will be taking place from 10 to 12 July.

Teams will be arriving from the United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and along with the South African team, will be competing for the prestigious title of world champions.

Gavin Cocker

Gavin Cocker

Meet the team

The Protea polocrosse side consists of eight celebrated sportsmen and sportswomen; Jean Hackland (Bishopstowe, KZN), Celicia Jacobs (Delmas, Mpumalanga), Cayley Higgs (Richmond, KZN), Natalie MacLarty (Elandslaagte, KZN and Pretoria), Gavin Cocker (Cato Ridge, KZN), Jan-Albert Steenkamp (Wellington, Western Cape), Graham MacLarty (Elandslaagte, KZN) and Travis Timm (Mooi River, KZN).

South African team captain, Gavin Cocker, has grown up with cane in hand as he started playing at the tender age of five. As a young adult, Cocker played for the Zimbabwe men’s side, winning the first quadrangular cup in 1997. After immigrating to South Africa, Cocker, who now lives in Cato Ridge (KwaZulu-Natal), qualified for the South African team that won the 2011 Polocrosse World Cup. Father to five, Cocker’s true joy is in practicing the sport with his children.

Celicia Jacobs, from Delmas (Mpumalanga), although only 25 years old is a seasoned Polocrosse player at an international level has been named the South African ladies captain. Jacobs found time to play in three Zimbabwean opens, compete in two Polocrosse World Cup championships and while studying, coached and introduced Stellenbosch University students to the sport. Jacobs was named the best ladies player on the English and Zimbabwean tour; she was also a part of the team that won the Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT) and South African Championships.

The Protea team will also consist of the current world’s best player, 26 year old Jan-Albert Steenkamp – better known as Jannie; who was awarded the Male Player of the World Cup award in 2011. Not only wasWellington (Western Cape) resident,  Steenkamp a standout competitor but his horse Melody won Golden Pony at the World Cup. That same year Steenkamp played for Western Province, the winning team at the IPT in South Africa. He represented the Cape Unicorns at the South African Championships and was named ‘SA Player of the Year’. In addition to his remarkable Polocrosse skills, Steenkamp also happens to be a single handicap golfer.

Jean Hackland

Jean Hackland

Protea team member Jean Hackland, a local Kwazulu-Natal player, hails from Bishopstowe which is a small farming area outside of Pietermaritzburg. Hackland is a veteran of the sport and has an impressive array of accomplishments. Her experience saw her playing for the under 19 ladies team and competing in the South African ladies side against the UK in 2004. Hackland makes the most of every day juggling a family as well as other sports that include running, mountain biking and canoeing.

19 year old Natalie MacLarty, from Elandslaagte (Biggarsberg, KZN) is one of the youngest team members and is currently studying a BSC in genetics at the University of Pretoria. MacLarty was originally a showjumper who represented KZN in Pony Riders (1:15m) in 2007 and 2008, and again for KZN in the Open Equitation in 2007 and 2008. MacLarty then moved on to play for the winning South African under 16 polocrosse team against Australia in 2009 and the winning South African side in the 2013 Quadrangular.

At the age of 15, Graham MacLarty broke a 30 year record in that he was the youngest member of the South African men’s polocrosse side. MacLarty lives in a farming area near Elandslaagte (Biggarsberg, KZN) and was awarded Player of the Year in 2009 and in 2013. MacLarty proved himself a skilled athlete as the youngest member of the South African team during the 2011 Polocrosse World Cup and at the age of 21 this year, he will again be the youngest male player on the South African side.

Cayley Higgs, youngest team member, was born and raised in Richmond in KZN and matriculated last year from Pietermaritzburg Girls High. Partly due to her being a part of the team at this year’s Polocrosse World Cup, 18 year old Higgs is taking a gap year while working at Roselands, an outdoor adventure and environmental education experience. Higgs was also a part of the team in the 2013 when South Africa won the Quadrangular. Higgs spends some of her time riding the horses in preparation for the tournament. She has played Polocrosse for 12 years and three generations of her family have played at an international level.

Topping off the acclaimed Protea team is Travis Timm; three generations of Polocrosse players down, he adds to the legacy of playing in his family. The apple has not fallen far from the tree, since Timm also prides himself on being on the South African side, as his father was.  Timm runs his Polocrosse ponies on the family farm in Mooi River, KZN, and began practicing the sport at only eight years old.

There will be six reserves for the Protea team, they include; Tembi Madonsela (Greytown), Dawnay Jacobs (Mpumalanga), Leigh Higgs (Richmond), Patrick Nkhosi (Bethel), 2014 SA Player of the Year Andrew Heynes (PMB, Bishopstowe) and Nico Van Wyk (Mpumalanga).

Coach of the Protea polocrosse team, Bruce MacLarty, 47 years old and a farmer in the Elandslaagte district, (Biggarsberg, KZN). MacLarty is an experienced and passionate mentor who has supported and challenged his players to reach the international level that they play at now.

 Well-deserved spot at the World Cup

Tembi Madonsela

Tembi Madonsela

The Protea polocrosse team has plenty of support and expertise behind them including their team manager Helene Steenkamp, sports psychologist Kirsten van Heerden and Dr Sherylle Calder the visual skills coach.

South Africa proved themselves in 2011 by earning the Polocrosse World Cup title after beating Zimbabwe in the final held in England. Full of talent and experience the current Protea Polocrosse team look set to be firm favorites to retain their title at the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup.

The international players have attracted an estimated 600 foreign visitors and the tournament organizers are anticipating 10,000 supporters to fill the venue.

The game

The teams will consist of eight players a side, played on horseback, the game is a fusion of the classic polo sport and lacrosse. Each player has a fibreglass cane with a racquet-headed, loose net attached to the end to carry the sponge ball; the aim is to get the ball through the opposing team’s goal.

PASA (the Polocrosse Association of South Africa) is honoured to be hosting this event and hope to see the Protea polocrosse team taking the lead on home soil. The local Polocrosse community selflessly provided 130 A-grade horses for the international players. Each international team will draw a pool of 16 horses for the tournament.

The eight international teams will be split into two pools according to their world ranking. The South African polocrosse team finds itself at number one in the world with Zimbabwe close behind in 2nd place. The rest of the countries are placed as follows; Australia in 3rd, then following USA, New Zealand, England, Ireland and Zambia coming in at 8th in the world rankings.

The pools are split as follows; pool A includes South Africa, USA, New Zealand and Zambia and pool B is made up of Zimbabwe, Australia, England and Ireland. The teams will compete within each pool, with the top scoring teams from each advancing to the semi-finals.

The six key tournament days

DAY 1 Friday 3rd July

09h00              New Zealand vs USA

10h30              Australia vs UK

12h00              Zimbabwe vs Ireland

14h00              South Africa vs Zambia

DAY 2 Saturday 4th July

09h00              Australia vs Ireland

10h30              USA vs Zambia

12h00              Zimbabwe vs England

14h00              South Africa vs New Zealand

DAY 3 Sunday 5th July

09h00              Zambia vs New Zealand

10h30              Ireland vs United Kingdom

12h00              Australia vs Zimbabwe

14h00              South Africa vs USA

DAY 4 Friday 10th July

09h00              Fourth Pool 1 vs Third Pool 2

10h30              Third Pool 1 vs Fouth Pool 2

12h00              Second Pool 1 vs First Pool 2

14h00              First Pool 1 vs Second Pool 2

DAY 5 Saturday 11th July

10h00              Play for 7th and 8th place

14h00              Play for 5th and 6th place

DAY 6 Sunday 12th July

10h00              Play for 3rd and 4th place

14h00              Finals

Getting there

Visit www.polocrosse.co.za for VIP tickets; general admission tickets can be purchased on the day at a cost of R20 per person, entrance for children under the age of 12 is free. Members of the public are encouraged to support PASA’s efforts by purchasing a lucky draw ticket. Stand a chance to win a magnificent filly, progeny from an Australian Stock horse stallion, which was imported into South Africa and bred with thoroughbred mares from good racing and sporting lines. This should insure a top quality sporting horse. Tickets for the lucky draw are a R100 each and can be purchased from the PASA secretary, Ashleigh Shaw at pasa@futurenet.co.za. Draw will take place on 12 July after the Polocrosse World Cup 2015 final.

For more information and to follow the event, visit the official Facebook page – Polocrosse World Cup South Africa and the Twitter page – @PolocrosseSA, the official event hashtag is #PolocrosseWorldCup2015.

Photography: Shannon Gilson