Representing your country in a World Cup is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in any athlete’s career — regardless of the sport, regardless of the outcome. 

And when Hanco Germishuys first picked up a rugby ball as a baby in South Africa, little did he know his journey would bring him to the highest peak of American rugby.

“As a baby I’d always go to my dad’s rugby matches; and since then, I’ve just played with bigger teams and joined his practices. After that, I was hooked, I’ve been playing since I was six years old,” he said. “When I turned 15 we moved to America and since then I’ve been playing rugby here.” 

When Germishuys moved to the U.S., his passion for rugby moved with him. And even though he was no longer pursuing a well-known and highly recognized national sport, it didn’t change anything.

He’d represent the USA in the first Olympic event that featured rugby in nearly 90 years with the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing; also earning more selections with the High School All-Americans and Under-20s.

Germishuys would remain embedded in the USA’s age-grade programs until he earned his first cap in XVs in 2016 against Brazil. Two years later in 2018, he’d score a crucial try to help the U.S. to its first-ever win over a top-ranked nation against then No. 6 Scotland. 

In the same way Germishuys grew in rugby, rugby has grown more prominent in the United States. 

“When I first came to America when I was 15, in my town, we had maybe three or four teams and now we’re up to maybe 14 teams. There’s definitely a lot of involvement,” he said.

And while the sport continues to carve out its place within the mold of American sport, Germishuys can already attest to the positive impact that comes with having the U.S. compete in a Rugby World Cup.

“One of my coaches back home, his son is seven years old and he’s watching the World Cup as a little boy. I talk to him maybe twice a week and he’s loving it.” 

As the World Cup has spread it’s bright and infectious spirit across the globe, Germishuys reflects on the privilege of representing the stars and stripes at the world’s third-largest single-sport event; something he’s dreamed of since he was the same age as his Coach’s son.

“It’s definitely a new experience being at the World Cup. I’m very excited, especially because I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity since I was six years old with my family. That feeling of being able to run out with my squad and sing the national anthem is definitely something I look forward to.” 

On Wednesday, Hanco Germishuys will start at flanker for the United States second matchup of Rugby World Cup Japan against France. The game kicks off at 3:45 AM ET on both NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.