Rugby without borders

Two St. Thomas men’s rugby players will spread their love of the game throughout Africa this spring.

Third-year scrum-half Johnny Cullen and second-year back row Justin Robar will spend May 2015 teaching rugby to African children with an organization called Bhubesi Pride.

“Volunteering with the purpose of developing communities through sports is a wonderful idea,” said Robar.

Bhubesi Pride is based in London, England. The charity assembles groups of coaches to travel around Africa on annual six-month expeditions to support rugby and community development in schools and community centres. The upcoming 2015 expedition will be the charity’s fifth tour of Africa. Cullen said he and Robar will join the expedition for a month so they can work at home for the summer.

Cullen saw the opportunity to teach rugby in Africa through the website, which he said is like other sports news sites. He saw videos about Bhubesi Pride on the site that sparked his interest.

“I thought they took professional coaches,” he said. “I didn’t know students could apply and be chosen.”

Cullen heard a friend in Newfoundland and Labrador applied to the program, so he also applied online.

“They responded the next day and said I had a strong application and they wanted to interview me,” said Cullen. “After three interviews, I was accepted.”

Cullen then told Robar about Bhubesi Pride, and he applied and also earned a chance to travel to Africa.

“I was chosen for my experience with this type of thing and because they felt Johnny and I had the right mindset for this work,” Robar said.

Both Cullen and Robar started playing in high school. Robar said he struggled academically, wasn’t sure of his direction in life, and wasn’t in the best physical shape.

“I started playing rugby and all of those things turned around and rugby taught me so much.”

Playing rugby was more of an acquired taste for Cullen, but he said he learned to enjoy it.

“I’ve met many great people with it, and it’s given me a lot of opportunities,” said Cullen.

Cullen and Robar will teach for mornings and afternoons, with free time in the evenings. One day each week will be spent hosting a tournament.

The trip costs $6,000 per person, which includes airfare, transportation, a $3,400 program fee, vaccines and other expenses. Cullen and Robar are raising funds using the crowdfunding site Go Fund Me, and they’re hosting The Fredericton Safari pub crawl Friday, Dec. 5. Bracelets are available all week in Sir James Dunn Hall for $10 each.

Both have raised around $1,000 so far, and Cullen said they’re still open to ideas for fundraisers.

“I want to share opportunities I’ve had with rugby with people who may not otherwise get to enjoy it,” said Cullen.

To support Cullen and Robar, visit Cullen’s Go Fund Me page at and Robar’s page at