05 Jan 2021
ROBBIE ERASMUS tells RugbyRocks.com about playing snow rugby for the ‘Blizzard Boks’ in Finland.
Russia’s sports ministry recently recognised snow rugby as an official sport.
In Jyväskylä, a city in Finland where I’ve lived since 2011, there’s been a snow rugby tournament since 2002.
There are 20 mixed teams – men, women, boys and girls – with 10 players per side. The tournament is held in a snow-covered car park every February, although the one year it had to be cancelled because there wasn’t enough snow.
In 2010, a group of us South Africans decided to field a team. We called ourselves the Blizzard Boks!
Some of us, like me, had moved to Finland for love, others had just emigrated. Guys were either still playing club rugby or had recently hung up their boots.
Frantz Kruger, who won a discus bronze medal for South Africa at the 2000 Olympics, was on our team. He’s actually Finland’s reigning discus champion!
We also had a couple of Kiwis, who were given honorary South African status!
Snow rugby started off as a fun thing for us, but it became a bit more serious and we ended up getting a kit sponsor.
At the 2015 tournament, which we won, we raised funds for Joost van der Westhuizen’s J9 Foundation. Sadly, Joost passed away two years later.
Playing snow rugby is really tough. You’re playing in Finland’s worst weather and the temperature is between minus-10 and minus-15 degrees.
You’re there the whole day, from morning until evening, and if all goes well, you play five or six games.
Your hands and feet feel frozen; we used to put plastics bags over our feet, under our boots, to try to keep them dry.
Every hit you make – and take! – feels worse than in normal rugby. The ground is hard after all the games that have been played, so your body is hurting!
Snow rugby is not for the faint-hearted!