The friendly match between South Africa and Argentina displayed high-quality sportsmanship and high-energy polo.
Inanda partnered with the Argentine Embassy in honour of the May Revolution, a historic event in the history of the country.
The polo handicap system works in such a way that the players are rated by their value to the team. This is expressed in goals. Ratings range from minus two goals (beginners) to 10 goals. The handicap rating is not the number of goals a player is expected to score.
“It takes about a year to put an event like this together. You have to get sponsors and invite all the players and find horses.
"We managed to pull this one together in six months, and the reason we could do it so fast is because we got a date from the South African Polo Association.
"They sanctioned the event. We also felt there was not a lot of high-goal polo in the country, and Inanda being one of the flagship clubs, we need to put polo as high profile as possible,” said Inanda Club Polo manager Craig James.
James explained that a high-goal match meant that the players had a rating score.
“A high-goal match is anything which is higher than 14 goals. This is the combination of the four players' handicaps, and the combination will give you the total.”
The choice to host Argentina for the friendly match was because of the relationship the Inanda Club had with the Araya and Lalor families.
“They have a long history of coming to South Africa. They first played here in the 1970s. It is also the Argentine independence month.”
The Lalors are known to be Argentina’s most eminent polo dynasty. The family have contributed three presidents of the Argentine Polo Association and have five members listed in Dr Laffaye’s Polo Encyclopedia.
Benjamin Carlos Araya Snr said it was incredible how their friendship with the South African polo had kept on growing.
For the match, South Africa was represented by Tom de Bruin, Gareth Evans, Dirk van Reenen and Bradley Mac- Gibbon.
The Argentine team had Ernesto Juan Lalor Jnr, Tomas Fernandez Llorente Jnr, Benjamin Carlos Araya Snr and Santiago Araya Jnr.
Polo, one of the oldest equestrian sports in the world, is full of thrills, teamwork, technique and true sportsmanship. The game is played at high speed, requiring peak athletic conditioning of horse and rider.
Today, the level of play and the amount of polo being played is the highest in the game’s history, generating rapid global expansion and participation and spectatorship.
In Argentina, polo was adopted in the 1870s, and its popularity has never waned. The standard of the game is regarded as the best in the world, boasting the highest number of 10-goal players.
In the current world rankings, nine of the top 10 players are Argentinian, as are 15 of the top 20. While polo in South Africa may have an elitist image, in Argentina it is a populist sport, with big matches attracting crowds of more than 30000 people and being broadcast live on television.
The horses for the Argentine visitors were provided by the Inanda Club. These are thoroughbred horses, known for their endurance and for their speed and grace. Each player brings eight to 10 horses to the field per game, so there are anywhere from 70 to 84 horses present at any high-goal match - more when you include the four umpire horses.
The event was held under the patronage of His Excellency the Ambassador Javier E Figueroa of Argentina.
The game was high energy and guests were treated to an Argentine asado and entertainment by the Roberto Siri Tango Trio. Tango legend Siri, from Buenos Aires, has worked with numerous tango stars and designed a special Trio programme with a Milonga concert for tango music lovers to enjoy.
The asado saw a mixture of traditional cuisine, ranging from the grasslands of the Pampas to the foothills of the Andes. The asado has been described as cooking in its purest form.
South Africa was the winner of the day with seven goals against Argentina’s five.