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XV Questions with John van der Giessen

Thursday Aug 20, 2009 in Awards and Profiles Profiles

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(Image, Rob Wagner, www.dropkickphotos.com)

15 Questions with John van der Giessen

Say what you like about John van der Giessen, he is perfectly capable of doing things the hard way. Not considered as an All American, or really looked at in any all-star capacity coming out of college, van der Giessen instead followed his dream to play overseas. His rugby odyssey took him to Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, Faucigny Du Mont Blonc in France,  and the University of Queensland. Toughing it out there he came back to the USA a much improved, and more skilled second-row forward.

In recent years, he has improved even more, taking criticisms as a way to motivate him, and he is now one of the hardest-working forwards in the USA pack.

John van der Giessen at a Glance

Height: 6'6"
Weight: 245
Birthplace: Idaho
Birthdate: 06-06-1982 (27)
Residence: Colorado
Marital status: Single
College: University of Idaho (Go Vandals!)

Years playing rugby: 2002-present
Position: Lock
Present club: USA Eagles
Previous clubs: Denver Barbarians, Hawkes Bay Magpies Development, Central Hawkes Bay, S. Cal Griffins, Santa Barbara Grunions, Rugby Club Faucigny Du Mont Blanc, University of Queensland Red Heavies, University of Idaho Vandals 
Future Clubs? I'd like to play professionally in Europe.

Eagle 15s matches: 11
Eagle 7s matches: "Too slow to play 7s"

XV questions (and answers) with John van der Giessen:

1. Aside from rugby, what do you do? Aside from rugby, I was working on a bison ranch before this year’s National Team tour.

It’s a 50,000 acre ranch on the border of Colorado and Wyoming. The Laramie River runs through the property which is at 8,000+ feet. The herd ranges in size from 1,000 - 2,000, depending on the season. Some cattle and rodeo stock are also raised there.

I did a little bit of everything: fencing, driving a tractor, feeding, checking on the cattle that are calving at all hours of the night, etc. There were some sacrifices involved in taking the job, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Watching a few hundred bison run across a big piece of land is incredible; like how things used to be. 

2. How did you get involved in bison ranching?
 It’s difficult to hold a 'traditional' job while being involved with the US National Team and I've been interested in bison since I was a kid. I contacted the ranch manager and he was willing to employ me around Eagle camps and training. The ranch is a 190 mile drive for me, one way, 50 miles outside cell phone service. I stay in the bunk house.

3. What was it like? All the bison I could eat was a huge plus, as it’s a great lean protein source. Working with bison is great and can, on occasion, be pretty intense. Bison are deceptively fast, agile, smart and tough. Being calm while working them seems to help as it’s hard to strong-arm bison into doing something.

Being up there was good for me as the isolation gave me time to think. 

4. Which is bigger, a bison or Mate Moeakiola? My hat goes off to Mate, who has trained really hard over the last year, losing over 50 pounds through diet and hard work. While on tour he gets in extra training early in the morning before team training starts.

So to answer your question, it depends on the season. 

5. Most …
Valuable teammates:
I can’t single anyone out; they all bring something important to the table. That’s what makes a National Team tour so special.
Difficult opposing team: I've played some difficult sides but the Japanese impressed me the most. They have a mentality and attitude that I have never seen before or since that tour.
Respected player (same position): Alec Parker, Luke Gross and Fifita Tasi Mounga

How did you start playing rugby? University of Idaho players lured me onto the pitch

Biggest influence on rugby career: [French-based coach] Dr. Carter Croft and [University of Idaho coach] Joe McGurkin

8. Best memory and biggest disappointment in rugby: Every time I pull on the USA jersey, losing to Canada.

How important in your development was playing overseas?  It’s the cornerstone of my rugby development. 

10. Comments on US rugby: I am hopeful for the future. There are too many Americans that care about rugby for it to not grow and develop.

11. Area where US rugby needs work: Insurance is a major issue for National Team players. Player benefits need to be improved. We must reach a point where National Team players are 'professional'; where they train, play and tour together regularly. We also need to improve how the sport of rugby and the National Team are marketed in the US.   

... and areas where they've improved? Having our Eagle test matches televised nationally is a positive step.   

12. Leisure Stuff:
Watching Nic Johnson perform magic tricks on tour. I also try to travel and get outdoors.
Books: Papillion, Blue Horizon, The Alchemist, It’s not about the bike...
ilms: High Plains Drifter, American Beauty, Pale Rider, Hang'em High, Fightclub, Meet Joe Black.
TV programs: True Blood, Hung, Entourage, The Daily Show, Colbert Report.
Music: Willie Nelson, Shooter Jennings, Rage Against the Machine, Johnny Cash and too many more to list.
Post-match ritual: Ice bath, recovery shake, and a cold beer

13. Best ...
Referee: Huh?
Playing field: Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane, Australia
Coach: Dangerous question.  Thorburn was old school and tough. Johnson and O'Sullivan have very different styles but both have pushed the Eagles in a better direction. I have benefited from being involved with all three.
Captain: Todd Clever

14. Most embarrassing moment in rugby:
Getting my shorts ripped off against Ireland seemed to get the crowd going. 

15. One last quote?
If it was easy, everyone would do it.


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