Friday, November 4, 2011

USA's lost star: Hanno Dirksen

At an age of still only 20, Hanno Dirksen is incredibly well travelled and his rugby career has already taken him through South Africa, USA, England and now Wales. Born in South Africa to a family with a pedigree in rugby (his uncle Corra Dirksen won 10 caps for South Africa in the 1960’s, and his dad was a rugby coach who also played for South Africa at age group level), Hanno Dirksen was brought up with rugby and started at a very early age in South Africa, his skill was spotted early and he was selected for the Blue Bulls under 12’s and under 13’s sides.

Dirksen in USA colours in 2008
At age 15, Dirksen and his parents immigrated to Nashville, Tennessee, USA and he was quickly added into the American sport setup and played for USA under 17’s and 18’s at rugby, he also represented his state at track and field. In 2008 Dirksen was selected as a recipient for USRFF Advanced Player Grant, a grant offered to the finest young talent in the USA, three of the previous recipients include Scott LaValla, Shawn Pittman and Kevin Swiryn made the US World Cup squad.

Soon after he impressed the then USA coach Scott Johnson so much playing in a USA trial match, he was selected for the senior USA team alongside players such as Todd Clever and Hayden Smith to play Munster and a New Zealand Heartland XV. However after making his senior debut for USA, he moved to England for the 2008/09 on a rugby scholarship with Truro in Cornwall for his final year at school, he was a major part in his school winning the national school championship that year and even gained selection for Cornwall in the counties competition.

However after his year in Cornwall he has been accused of throwing all the funding and support that the USA rugby system gave him in their face, as he followed the USA coach Scott Johnson and signed for the Ospreys with a view to qualifying for Wales. In his first season in Wales he was converted to playing wing as opposed to being a fly half/centre which he had been in the US, his positional move paid off as he destroyed opposition defences in the Principality Premiership with Swansea scoring 18 tries in 18 matches; he also made his Ospreys debut in the LV Cup and scored a try on his first start. His second season again he had a phenomenal strike rate playing 
Dirksen scoring a try this season
for Swansea with 8 tries in 12 matches, but also made more of an impact with the Ospreys, and played his first Magners League matches whilst several internationals were playing in the 6 Nations, he impressed in those matches and went above the much talked about Wales international Tom Prydie in the Ospreys pecking order, as well as Kristian Phillips who also was called up to a senior Wales squad in 2010. His playing time with the Ospreys has increased again this season already and has played in all of the RaboDirect Pro12 matches so far, and has scored twice. A player I would compare him to is Ireland’s Keith Earls, he’s not a massively powerful winger, but is feisty and will fight hard for every metre gained on the pitch and is a very efficient finisher, just look at his stats.

Dirksen has undoubtedly improved a lot as a played by playing with the Ospreys, he will qualify for Wales this summer, and has already been mentioned as a possible future Wales player. Dirksen has said he’s now committed to Wales now and he will be a big loss to USA rugby, especially now as his brother Cornelius Dirksen who also went through the USA system has now left Life University and joined him in Wales. That’s two players that USA has brought through during their teenage years now very unlikely to give anything back to the national team. There is also now the dreadful possibility that with rumours of Wales A side to play matches again, Dirksen could play for that side and perhaps never even get one cap for any nation and be wasted to international rugby forever. By 2015, I’m certain Dirksen would be able to make the USA side easily, but it’s not going to happen unless he fails to get into the Wales or Wales A side and then the opportunity for World Cup rugby persuades him to change his decision to commit to Wales.

(video: Hanno Dirksen highlights with Swansea)

(video: Hanno Dirksen great try against Edinburgh)


  1. Great reading BEH - very informative! Welcome to the campaign for Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2011.

    The USA certainly have better use of him than Wales do, and South Africa fo that matter. The USA are to lose Paul Emerick soon as he is 31 years old and they´ll be needing a new player for 13. The options are Seta Tuilevuka or possibly winger, Kevin Swiryn. If Swiryn is used as a centre then there is all the more reason for Dirksen to continue on for the team he played for at Under 17 and 18 level.

    Would Wales really pick him. I don´t know. Tom James can´t make the team.

  2. Regarding Dirksen, there is a big opportunity for all Welsh wingers as now Halfpenny is playing 15, one wing is going to be vacant after Shane's gone and Brew hasn't lived up to his domestic form for Wales.

    As for Tom James is very quick but that's all, he's a really poor finisher and a poor tackler, not good enough for international

  3. cornelius dirksen still attends and plays for life university.. not sure where you got that from