It’s amazing how quickly things can happen in professional sport. Last year, we wrote a piece on a young American rugby player who had excelled at youth level and was now looking to make the step up to the senior team. A year on, Ben Cima has made a serious impact at Test level.
12 points on his USA Eagles debut from fly half set him up for big things, and since then a subsequent 6 games have yielded more success. In fact, in Cima’s appearances for his country, they have won four, drawn one and lost just twice.
The fourth game against Chile saw Cima register 17 points. His scoring return has been severely hindered by only starting two games at Fly-Half – a victim of his own versatility. He has been called upon on the wing, full back and centre. Such is the life of a multi-skilled player in the modern age.
When we wrote our profile of Ben in May 2016. He had just been the subject of a viral video, where his massive, last minute kick secured a victory for USA Under 20s to secure their passage to the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy. Over 1 million people have seen the video, propelling the baby-faced kicker to household status in American rugby circles.
Cima’s journey to rugby was an intriguing one, and not one you could predict. The 21 year old was born in Buenos Aries to a rugby loving father, who himself had played the game for 30 years. Hugo Porta and Juan Martin Hernandez were Cima’s heroes growing up, and when the family moved to the United States, Ben’s father tried to get him into any rugby match or training session possible. With youth rugby difficult to come by, much of his training was in touch rugby or, inevitably, in full contact against older players.
High school saw Ben come to the fore as a potential star of the future, while at university his stock rose considerably as he represented USA at age group levels.
A move to Europe was mooted, but Cima stayed to focus on his rugby at University and for his club Rocky Gorge. That decision has paid dividends with his call up to the full USA squad in February for the America Rugby Championships. Two weeks ago, a thrilling two-leg victory over Canada – with Cima at Full Back in the first encounter - saw USA book their spot at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, allowing Cima to test his wits against the world’s best on the biggest stage.
After that, the big move to Europe may well be inevitable. Premiership Rugby and Top 14 clubs will be on high alert as to Cima’s movement, and there was favourable feedback in respected circles after his appearance against Ireland in June.
When we talked to Ben about his heroes last year, he cited Tom Brady and Steph Curry, more traditional American sports stars in the NFL and NBA respectively, as “flat-out winners”. With RWC 2019 success and a big European move, Cima could join them on the winners list in the near future.
Ben Cima is a Gilbert Rugby Brand Ambassador. He wears the Ignite headguard, Evolution boots and Triflex body armour.