Text by Joerg Bungert
Photos by Chris Marshall
Talking about a sport called Underwater Rugby almost sounds like blasphemy in a country where rugby football is a religion
People ask questions like: ‘how do you do a scrum under water?’, ‘are you only allowed to pass the ball backwards?’ or ‘do you have to release the ball in a tackle?’
The reality is that underwater rugby has not that much in common with rugby football other than being a contact sport played with an unusual ball.
The teams have six players in the water and up to six rolling subs. The players are equipped with fins, mask and snorkel and the teams play in either blue or white coloured caps and togs. The goals are positioned on either side at the bottom of the diving pool in up (or rather down) to five metres depth.
The ball is filled with salt water so it sinks and to make it possible to pass it under water.
Underwater rugby ticks all the boxes for a performance orientated team sport. A good player is fit, skilful, fast, strong, has a good orientation, knows the strategies and is determined. But by no means do you have to be a
super athlete to enjoy this sport. You’ll find players of all ages, male and female, usually in mixed teams and it’s
great fun from the first time you try it out.
Underwater rugby is different to all other team sports in that it’s not played on a field, but in the three dimensional space of the diving pool. Opponents and your own team members are left, right, behind, in front, above and below. In terms of orientation it truly has an additional dimension.
It is a fast sport – carrying the ball doesn’t slow down the player. The key is to anticipate where the game is going next and being in the right position (which is not at the surface!). The fact that you can’t breath makes sprinting a bit of a challenge.
Breathing only happens after you passed on the ball and got yourself back to the surface.
To score you have to get past the defenders and the goalie. Not an easy task since the bucket-like goal is small enough to be covered up completely by the goalie who’s allowed to press his back on the ring. This is where
strength and a bit of displacement helps.
Underwater rugby is not a spectator sport. It is purely about the active experience which is what the players love it for. In New Zealand we currently play in Auckland and Wellington but would love to see more teams building in other cities.
If you’re interested, come and check it out! Everybody is welcome. Contact our teams in Auckland or Wellington through