Tove Svanborg is a fast learner.
Before this year she could count the number of games of fifteens rugby she had played on one hand in her native Sweden.
She certainly didn’t think she would be playing on the wing for the Wellington Pride in the Farah Palmer Cup when she moved from Sweden to New Zealand earlier this year.
“I have played for the U18 national sevens team in Sweden and we played against other European countries such as England and Russia, but this is definitely a step up from anything I have played before,” she told Club Rugby this week.
Struck with the travel bug, she planned her OE and it was rugby that made New Zealand an easy choice to come to.
“A family friend knew the coach of Paremata-Plimmerton and recommended I go there and start playing for their new women’s team so I made the move.”
Paremata-Plimmerton had a positive first season in the expanded 10-team competition, losing to Petone 27-36 in the Women’s Division 2 final in early August. A standout in more ways than one – her blonde hair stood out amongst her mostly Polynesian teammates – earlier this month Tove was named the club’s Player of the Year.
She spent the first half of this year working as an au pair, before moving to her current place of employment at Shoe Clinic in Wellington in July.
From a town on Sweden’s east coast called Kalmar, Tove explained how she got into rugby in the first place.
“I tried rugby in school and then I heard about there being a men’s rugby club in my town so I joined up and started to play with the guys. They had no women’s team, so three other girls and I started one up.”
What’s more, she had barely played fifteens rugby. “It’s mostly sevens rugby in Sweden, so before coming here I think I had played three games of fifteens rugby.”
She played most of the club season out of Ngatitoa Domain as a second five-eighth and on the wing. A series of strong performances caught the attention of the Pride selectors and head coach Ross Bond, and she was invited to train with the squad.
“I had no idea I was going to be named in the final squad for the NPC. I was really shocked to be named after training with the other girls.”
So far the Pride have had two wins and a loss in this year’s Farah Palmer Cup. They beat Hawke’s Bay 42-10 first up, lost to Manawatu 27-35 - who had Black Ferns star Selica Winiata at fullback - and beat Waikato 11-5 in heavy going last weekend.
Tove started on the wing in all three games, scoring her first Women’s NPC try against Manawatu.
“It’s really cool playing with all the top Pride players. It is a whole new level, they teach me and I feel like I am developing my game well.”
Tove has a sporting background playing football as a midfielder and playing floorball where she has been in local representative squads.
One of two Europeans in this year’s Pride squad, alongside former Czech softball international Petra Kriklanova, Tove wants to stay on after this year. “I don’t really feel like leaving. I really want to stay on and play another club season.”
What about other friends in Sweden who might want to follow her over here? “I hope so, there are three girls in my club who are also in the Swedish national team and I really want to bring them here so that will be cool."
What: Wellington Pride v Auckland Storm women’s NPC
Where: Jerry Collins Stadium, Porirua Park
When: 12pm this Saturday