On a weekend where Duttish (Dutch/Scottish) winger Tim Visser scores a hat-trick on the opening day of the Pro12 season, this Scotsman made his début in the Dutch Ereklasse league. Minus the hat-trick of tries of course (or any tries for that matter).
With Dutch-Scottish rugby relations at an all time high, I thought I would write a little blog on what it’s like to play rugby in the Netherlands.
Stereotypically people associate the Netherlands with canals, windmills, flowers, clogs, “ladies of the night” and “happy cigarettes”. Sports wise the Dutch are renowned for producing some of the world’s greatest footballers, they are also one of the top hockey nations in the world, and are not bad at the gymnastic high bar either.
Visser aside, you don’t really associate the country with rugby… and perhaps rightly so, as it is still a minor sport in the Netherlands. However it is fast growing; there are about 80 registered clubs and over 8000 registered players, and a successful Sevens tournament.
The open and accepting culture of rugby which provides a team sport for everyone no matter what shape or size, is I think appealing to the traditionally open and accepting Dutch psyche.
Since arriving I have been surprised to find out how many of my team mates had found the game of rugby a bit later on in their lives. Generally players coming from “rugby families” are the ones who are exposed to the game as children, many other players did not find the game until long after they left school, often as a more physical alternative to hockey. With rugby not being the simplest game to learn from scratch, it often means that you have many players who are still trying to understand all the different rules as well as building the basic skills and techniques you need to play the game. All this aside, every single person I have spoken to that has made the switch from another sport to rugby is 100% positive over their decision, which is a great thing to hear.
In the short time I have been here I’ve been made to feel very welcome and, with the Dutch having such an excellent grasp of English, I’ve been able to communicate with my team mates both on and off the field. Which is a relief since my Dutch is comically poor; every time I try to speak it just seems to send the recipient into fits of laughter. Think I’m beginning to understand the meaning of the phrase “Double Dutch” or maybe it’s because my team mates keep teaching me to say words like “kut” and “klotes”.
But I have set myself a challenge to be speaking Dutch by the end of the season, so lets see how that goes…
The club I’m playing with is still looking for more players with a bit of rugby experience that can help bring on the local players, in particular someone who can play scrum-half. The Ereklasse is the top league in Holland and the standard is probably equivalent of Division 2 or 3 in Scotland. If you’re interested or know of someone who might be interested in a new challenge playing and coaching rugby in the Netherlands then please get in touch with me.
Although I will warn you now… we play in pink and you will be required to drink some beer. Guys from Ayr should fit in fine.
I’ve also been making some little video blogs of my time in the Netherlands which you can find on my YouTube channel.
Until the next time.