San Diego, CA (June 17, 2015) - After Ben Pinkelman’s outstanding performance at the Sharks Academy last year as the first recipient of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship, the Downes Scholarship Selection Committee decided that they would provide two of our country’s most promising players with scholarships to attend the Sharks Academy in Durban, South Africa. And those two young players are Brian Nault and Hanco Germishuys.
As recipients of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship, Brian and Hanco will be provided a once in a lifetime opportunity: round trip airfare to Durban, South Africa; four weeks of professional instruction under some of the world's top coaches at the Sharks Academy in Durban; and accommodations.
Brian Nault started playing rugby in the 8th grade for the Shelton RFC in Shelton, WA, playing with them for five years. He was selected to play his first of four years for the Washington Loggers in 2012 at the age of 15. His outstanding play for Shelton and the Loggers led to him being selected for the United States High School All-Americans for their tours to England in 2013, Portugal and France in 2014, Argentina in 2014, and this year’s Las Vegas 7s. He also toured Canada this year with the USA U20s. Not only is he talented but also versatile as he’s played lock, flanker and 8man along the way.
Brian gives a lot of the credit for his success to his two Logger coaches. “My two coaches from my All-State team, the Washington Loggers, Pete and Mark Sullivan, had the greatest impact on me throughout the years because they always believed in me and got me to where I am today in rugby.”
Having already represented the U.S. at the high school and U20 level, Brian’s sights are set even higher now. “My goals in rugby are to reach my greatest potential and to challenge the best around the world. I also want to represent the USA in future Rugby World Cups.”
U.S. Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin has taken notice. “Brian Nault took a very big step with the U20s this spring as he demonstrated great athleticism and rugby prowess. He shows good promise to the Eagle program as he continues to develop at higher levels.”
On being one of the first recipients of the Graham Downes Scholarship, Brian had this to say, “This scholarship means a lot to me. It's going to help me pursue my love for the game of rugby and possibly open new doors for me in the future. Also, it gives me the opportunity to go and travel across the world and experience a different culture. What I plan to achieve at the Sharks Academy is to put more tools of the game in my tool belt to become a better player and teammate on the pitch. I’ll also be able to see what it is like to live as a rugby player 24/7.”
He is going to attend Central Washington University with the goal of obtaining his degree in craft beer trade, an interest he shares with his father, and to eventually open up his own brewery.
This year's other Graham Downes Scholarship recipient, Hanco Germishuys, started playing rugby from the age of six in his native South Africa, where he went to Netwon. His rugby started taking off in the 7th grade when he was selected to play for the Griquas U13 Craven Week team. But just about the time his rugby skills started to blossom, his family moved to the United States.
The family moved to Omaha, NE where Hanco began playing for Westside High School. He earned his way onto the Nebraska Select Side team for four years and started playing with the United States High School All Americans when he was just 14. He toured with the HSAA to England in 2011 and 2012, when he captained the side, and to South America in 2013 and 2014. He also played with the HSAA at the Las Vegas 7s in 2012 and 2014.
He captained the USA team at the Youth Olympics in 2014 in China; played for the USA U20s in 2014 in Hong Kong and 2015 in Canada. He also played for Gloucester U18s in 2014. The majority of his playing career was in the backrow, comfortable at 6, 7 or 8.
He too gives credit to his coaches for his success. “The coaches that had the most impact in my rugby career and life are my U.S. Age Grade coaches Michael Engelbrecht and Salty Thompson, and my all state coach, Dave Synnot. They taught me a lot about rugby but mostly about life.”
He has set lofty goals for his rugby future. “My goals in rugby are to become the best I can be on and off the field. I want to become a pro rugby player and represent my country and be the best in my position!!!”
Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin likes what he’s seen so far. “Hanco Germishuys has steadily and successfully moved through the age-grade system and at a young age he continues to play above his years and show why he is one of our top back row prospects.”
Hanco wants to study agricultural and maybe go to veterinarian school but he adds, “I don't have a school in mind yet as I first want to see where rugby takes me before I take that step.”
“Receiving one of this year’s Graham Downes Scholarships is a great honor and I look forward to representing the USA in South Africa. I want to thank the Scholarship Committee for providing me this opportunity to go show my talent and to continue to improve. When I am with the Sharks, I want to learn more skills for my position and understand the game better.”
Brian and Hanco will arrive in Durban on Thursday, June 25 and will report to the Sharks Academy on Sunday, June 28.
The Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund was created to honor the late Natal, OMBAC and U.S. Eagle prop. The Fund is designed to provide annual scholarships to promising young rugby players with the opportunity to expand their rugby knowledge by participating in the courses at the Sharks Academy.
You can help keep Graham's legacy alive and continue to provide this great opportunity to promising U.S. players by contributing to the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund.