Polo is not just for the bubble heads - it's for men with legs of steel too

Purveyors of high fashion find that you need exceptional co-ordination to control a horse with one hand and hit a ball with a stick at high speed - not just drinking skills.

06 March 2019 - 08:00
Team Veuve Clicquot battled it out against Team Maserati at the ninth Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo.
Team Veuve Clicquot battled it out against Team Maserati at the ninth Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo.
Image: Supplied

I count myself among the majority of the people assembled for the ninth Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo on Saturday at Val de Vie Estate, 45 minutes out of the Cape Town city bowl, when I confess that I don't really understand the rules of the game.

Heck, I can hardly ride a horse - but I have an equestrian as my date, who has actually had a few polo lessons and is delighted to be able to tell me what an exceptionally difficult sport the game is.

"You have to hold four reins in one hand," she explains. "With the other you have to hold a large stick called a mallet made of a bamboo handle, about 1.2m long, with a wooden head.

"You need legs of steel to control the horse," she adds, eyeing the riders on both teams with admiration.

"You need to take the galloping beast in the direction you choose, aiming for a tiny white ball on the ground, and scoop it into the air with the head of the mallet by leaning precariously from the horse's side."

Pascal Asin Managing Director of Moët Hennessy for Africa and the Middle East throws in the ball to start the game
Pascal Asin Managing Director of Moët Hennessy for Africa and the Middle East throws in the ball to start the game
Image: Supplied

Polo could be the weirdest sport on earth. It is, in the words of Sly Stallone, "like trying to play golf during an earthquake". It's horsey-dancing croquet.

Until Saturday, I - like most of the invitees - thought that the polo match was simply the background for the party. Just an excuse, really, to drink a lot of Veuve Clicquot, the brand synonymous with the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic held in both New York and Los Angeles since the 1990s.

It's always a glamorous affair, with hats (not compulsory) and gorgeous dresses - often in the iconic burnt yellow/orange colour of the champagne's label - adding the refined Veuve Clicquot touch of art de vivre to these thrilling sporting experiences.

Colour has always been at the heart of the brand and is a source of the champagne's creativity and inspiration. It was in 1816 that Madame Clicquot developed the first riddling table, designed to guarantee a crystal-clear wine, enhancing the purity of colour of her champagne. She also created the first blended rosè in order to create a more intense colour and taste.

In South Africa, the setting for this prestigious event, Val de Vie Estate, was painted Clicquot yellow. Guests dressed "polo chic" according to this year's “colourama” theme, in shades ranging from sunburst yellow to blush pinks.

The men were not to be outdone by the women. They wore suits in houndstooth, chic beige, monochrome black and white, and my favourite: a tailored mustard masterpiece worn by suave influencer Seth Shezi.

Influencer Seth Shezi looking suave on the polo fields.
Influencer Seth Shezi looking suave on the polo fields.
Image: Supplied

The highlight of the event - the highest-scoring Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo match yet to take place at Val de Vie Estate – was the main match between Team Veuve Clicquot and Team Maserati.

Fast-paced action and extreme skill resulted in a final score of 7 vs 5 and a half, with Team Veuve Clicquot reigning supreme. The "most valued player of the day" was declared to be Ben Crowe and the best playing pony accolade went to Argo, owned by Dirk van Reenen.

Local actress Nomzamo Mbatha, a goodwill ambassador for the UN high commissioner for refugees, returned as host for the third time. This year she was joined by well-known presenter Mark Bayly.

The VIP guest list included international and pan-African celebrities, dignitaries and influencers. Charismatic US actor, producer and philanthropist Terrence "J" Jenkins attended, along with 2,500 guests, who - when they weren't sipping chilled bubbles from elegant Veuve Clicquot branded glasses - were no doubt impressed by the high-speed, high-skill game of polo.

DJ Zinhle delighted the crowd with her repertoire as the sun set over Val de Vie.

The finest Maserati cars were also on display - including the Levante, the elegant Quattroporte, the bold and luxurious Ghibli, as well as the iconic GranTurismo and GranCabrio models.

Guests had the opportunity to get up close and personal during divot stomping with both heroes of the day – the polo ponies and the Maserati masterpieces .

A guest dressed in Veuve Clicquot yellow walks in front of a Maserati Levant.
A guest dressed in Veuve Clicquot yellow walks in front of a Maserati Levant.
Image: Supplied
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