Cayman may have lost their Big Game match to USA South Panthers but local rugby president Derek Haines believes they are still on target to be the region’s third best side after reaching an all-time high world ranking of 54th.
Reigning North America Caribbean Rugby Association champions Panthers beat Cayman’s 15s side 34-30 at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex two weeks ago.
It secured them a championship game against Guyana this weekend. Last year, Cayman lost by only two points to the Panthers in another Big Game clash. Both losses inspired Cayman to believe they will improve significantly with experience.
Haines remains upbeat that the nucleus of the Cayman team, which is relatively young and inexperienced at senior level, will mature and become the next best after mighty USA and Canada by 2020.
Youngsters like Morgan Hayward, Alex Pineau, Alex Harvey, Joel Clark, Garrett Connolly and Paul Westin look set to improve.
“I strongly believe we will achieve this with time to spare,” Haines said. “Of course, I was disappointed not to have come away with a win but in our development this match was huge.
“USA South are a very strong team with some of them being called to the U.S. national team, the Eagles. We ran them to the wire and were so close to taking the game in the last 10 minutes.”
Haines added that the rugby program’s investment in fitness and conditioning coach Dave Clancy has proved invaluable and the improvement in the squad’s fitness is considerable.
He sees climbing up to 54th in the world rankings as a tribute to the hard work by the squad, coaches and management. “The support of our sponsors is also a factor that cannot be overstated.”
Meanwhile, there are plenty of games being played domestically. The Appleton Cup is entering its final stages and then the summer touch league begins.
At Under-19 level, the squad will be defending the regional trophy again and confident of making it six wins in the last seven years. Haines will be in Trinidad to cheer them on. He added, “Our development program is a shining example to all of what a small country can achieve through sport, dedication and hard work.
“Some of our youngsters are now part of age group squads at national level in the U.K. You do not get to that level without effort and support from family, sponsors and the rugby union. I wish to thank everyone concerned. Cayman is now firmly on the rugby world map.”