By Stuart Hall

The adrenaline-pumping showdown of the Stella Artois Zambian Open, a thrilling polocrosse extravaganza was held on July 8th and 9th 2023.  The atmosphere was electrifying as four powerhouse teams, sponsored by Butchers Block, Tiffanys Canyon, Entrust / Zenith, and Suscon, battled it out for glory.

All eyes were on the mighty Suscon team, led by the dynamic duo of Kelly and Mikey Krynauw, backed by the indomitable veteran World Cup player Damien Harris and the sensational international star John Rae. With the formidable support of Ross Fingland and Louis Nel, Suscon was the team opponents needed to bury!  But they didn’t stop there! Suscon unleashed their secret weapon, the explosive wildcard player Josh Le Roux, a recent South African World Cup team member. The word on everyone’s lips was that Suscon was the unstoppable force to beat in the tournament.  The Suscon team’s remarkable lineup of players was backed by the incredible horsepower of the Rae stable.

Butchers Block, the fourth team that ensured the event’s excitement, brought out the big guns. With Jannie Steenkamp and his South African World Cup team compatriot Chad Von Beneke leading the charge, Butchers Block exuded power and determination. The Zambian team entries, Phillip Chalcraft and Erin Walisko, joined forces with the phenomenal Celicia Jacobs, a star from the 2015 South African World Cup team and current Zambian player. Rene Summers, a rising star in the polocrosse world, blazed into the team, making a remarkable journey from C Division to the prestigious Zambian Open in just a few seasons. And to add even more tenacity to their lineup, the seasoned veteran Connor Walisko stepped up as the tough-as-nails player, ready to leave his mark on the field.

Entrust/ Zenith, a team filled with Zambian talent, had their sights set on victory. Henry Becket and Murray Evans, two stalwart Zambian players, formed the backbone of the team. With the support of Zambian internationals Emily Johnston, Peter Du Toit, and the awe-inspiring U21 player Amorette Du Toit, Entrust Zenith was a force to be reckoned with. But they didn’t stop there! They bolstered their lineup by recruiting Stef Harris, a South African World Cup team member, and the explosive Braxton Hamlin from the USA World Cup team. The stage was set for a fierce battle.

Tiffanys Canyon brought the heat with a young and talented team—the Zambian U21 squad that had triumphed over South Africa the previous year. Led by rising stars Andrew Hall, Daniel Mawson, Andrew Mawson, Umar Patel, and Ahmed Patel, Tiffanys Canyon was a force of youthful energy. But they had an ace up their sleeve—Audrey Logan, a Zambian Ladies World Cup player who was ready to showcase her skills on the grand stage. To add some seasoned expertise to their lineup, Tiffanys Canyon secured the services of the experienced South African Brent Von Beneke. It was a perfect mix of talent and experience.

The tournament was an exhilarating display of polocrosse prowess, with jaw-dropping comebacks from trailing teams and unforgettable moments of triumph. In the end, Suscon emerged as the crowned champions of the 2023 Zambian Open, leaving a trail of awe-inspiring victories in their wake, with the thundering hooves of the Rae stable propelling them forward, Suscon was an unstoppable and awe-inspiring presence throughout the tournament. The excitement was not limited to those in attendance, as fans from all over the world tuned in to watch the exhilarating matches via livestream.

The accolades were well-deserved, with Andrew Hall capturing the title of Best Junior (U21) player, while the phenomenal Chad Von Beneke was crowned Best Male Player and the awesome Kelly Krynauw Best Female player of the tournament. The coveted title of Best Horse went to the majestic Charlie Brown, owned by Conor Walisko and ridden by the skilled Jannie Steenkamp. Their remarkable partnership showcased the true spirit of horsemanship.

As the dust settled, the Zambian polocrosse scene was abuzz with anticipation. The Zambian team for the upcoming clash against the United Kingdom in August was revealed, featuring a lineup of exceptional players ready to defend their homeland:

Ladies: Kelly Krynauw, Audrey Logan, Celecia Jacobs, Amorette Du Toit, Emily Johnston, and Erin Walisko.

Men: Michael Krynauw, Phillip Chalcraft, Andrew Hall, Damien Harris, Daniel Mawson, and Pieter Du Toit.

Prepare for an extraordinary battle as Zambia’s finest take on the UK on the 18th, 19th  and 20th of August, on home soil at Leopards Hill Polocrosse and Cricket Club , ready to showcase their skills, passion, and unwavering determination. The Zambian Open was just the beginning of an epic journey for these exceptional players. The stage is set for a polocrosse spectacle that will leave spectators breathless and hearts racing!