The Cayman Rugby Football Union (CRFU) National Men’s 15s have a chance to make history.
On Saturday (9 February) Cayman will play Guyana in a one-game playoff for the right to enter just the second Americas Rugby Challenge. If they win, Cayman will advance outside regional play for the first time in the union’s 48-year existence.
Players are well aware of what’s at stake.
“You can see the heart, you can see the desire, you can see it in everyone,” said veteran Michael Wilson. “We are practicing in the early morning, three days a week. We are doing it for each other. We know whats up for grabs, and we want it bad.”
The best of the Americas Tier II await: Columbia, Paraguay and Mexico. Wilson says a win would finally put Cayman on the international 15s radar.
“It’s a small country as we all know,” said Wilson. “To get a chance to play in against the South Americans would be absolutely massive.”
A chance to play tougher competition, however, isn’t just about making history. Captain Killian Everard says it’s about the obstacles the team has overcome along the way, and the unity it’s created.
“I think the team is really focused,” Everard. “The late move from Truman Bodden to South Sound didn’t effect the team. I think it will galvanize us. The smaller pitch, and the more intimate atmosphere will hopefully get us a bigger crowd. ”
At Wednesday’s (6 February) practice, Head Coach Garry Southway says that unity is translating on the field at the right time.
“For the last session, from a coaches perspective, I think that was our best one so far.”
On paper, Cayman isn’t the same team that edged Bermuda. Just 13 of 23 players have returned from June’s victory, with three set to make their national team debut. Southway says it’s a product of the short-term notice they received to vacate Truman Bodden for South Sound. He says, however, that is not an excuse.
“Four or five guys that were originally planning to be on island, and playing before Christmas, now have work commitments or holidays,” said Southway.
On the field, players say preparing for Guyana required a completely different approach than their training camp prior to defeating Bermuda.
“We know them (Guyana) from sevens, they are more experienced in open field play,” said Wilson. “We are trying to build more structure around them, making sure they don’t have the loose ball, putting the pressure on them, and having a nice game pattern.”
“Guyana will be fitter and faster, but we know we are better rugby players,” said Everard. “That comes down to bringing it back to our structure, slowing it down, and being organized on defense.”
Preparations aside, Southway says his team cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel like they did versus Bermuda. Leading 10-7 at half, a back-and-forth second frame saw Bermuda go ahead 19-17 in the closing moments before a Morgan Hayward penalty conversion rescued the victory in a tense 20-19 final.
“The first 30 minutes, we did fantastically well, and then we struggled with the game pattern,” said Southway. “It is fitness and fatigue. After 30 minutes of running around in the heat, it can be hard to get there.”
Exhaustion. Strategy. Roster changes. Everard says any and all excuses can be left at home.
“Win or lose, I just want to be able to look the guys at the end of the game and just know that everyone gave there all,” said Everard. “If that happens, I will be happy. I do believe if everyone gives their best effort, I think we will have a good result.”
Here is a look at the FFP Cayman National XVs squad V. Guyana
- Peter De Vere
- Andy Hall
- Jonny Gibson
- Dylan Bostock
- Shane Cusack
- Sam Anderson
- Paul Westin
- Ben Blair
- David Stringer
- Morgan Hayward (Vice Captain)
- Iain Currie
- Justin Wight
- Mikey Wilson
- Cueme Parker
- Killian Everard (Captain)
- Joey Westin
- Shane Westin
- Jazeb Jones *
- Andrew Mathias *
- Barry John Goude
- Clive O Mahony *
- Edward Westin
- Darien Montague