Benzwick: Early acclimatisation worked!
Jamaica Rugby Football Union (JRFU) chairman Jerry Benzwick has described the men's and women's senior national teams' performance at the Rugby Americas North Sevens tournament in Mexico at the weekend as "beyond exceptional".
The Crocs won their tournament with a 28-25 win over Guyana in the final, after beating the hosts 24-14, in what was considered a tournament upset. The win meant the team not only qualified for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens, but also next year's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CASCO) Games, and the Commonwealth Games set for the Gold Coast in Australia in April next year.
Their female counterparts, the Lady Crocs, also qualified for next year's CASCO Games, after finishing third in their tournament.
Benzwick said that the JRFU's strategy of arriving in Mexico earlier than most teams in order to get acclimatised to the thin air in Mexico City worked.
'GET THEIR LUNGS OPEN'
"We had the players running, just running to blow off steam, to get their lungs open. They felt it, I can tell you," Benzwick, who was hoarse from long celebrations with the team, said. "The first day was horrific for them. They felt like they couldn't do anything, but they pushed through it, and the second day, it was getting better. By the third day, they weren't feeling it anymore.
"On match days, any team that didn't come in within the time that we came in wouldn't have had the kind of productivity that we did," he said.
Benzwick said that a victory over Mexico will help the team's growing reputation globally.
"The world rugby community would now be getting that information and be raising an eyebrow and looking in our direction to see who these guys that beat Mexico are.
"Coming out of this region, Mexico is the strongest team, and once you beat a strong team, you get attention.
"People will be looking to see who were the personnel that pulled it off, especially as we beat them, not inna dem backyard, but inna dem living room! They were sitting down at home comfortable, the crowd was cheering for them all day, for the men's and women's teams." Benzwick laughed.