Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Sabina Park matches will help rugby's growth - Benzwick

Published:Saturday | January 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM

With Sabina Park set to host its first rugby tournament on January 19, president of the Jamaica Rugby Union Jerry Benzwick says the intention is to establish the venue as an international rugby venue in the future.

Sabina Park will host the sixth annual St Catherine Thundercats Rugby Club's CB Crocs International Sevens Tournament next Saturday at the world-famous cricket ground, and Benzwick revealed that they are looking to make this venue a permanent home as he believes that it will broaden their reach and international appeal.

"This is Rugby Union thinking outside the box. Until we get these venues, we won't be appealing to regional organisers to host international tournaments, and that is what we set our sights on- hosting international tournaments.

"We have an international game in a couple months, a 15-a-side international against Bahamas. Hopefully, this (Sabina Park) is where we can have that game because we would have established the playing area.

"So we can tell our regional organisers we want to have it here and they will approve it because it's a world-renowned venue, the grass is beautiful, and everything is perfect about the venue, so they won't give us any slack, and that was one of the problems we had over the years (to host games)," he said.


Venues a struggle


Benzwick noted that they have struggled to acquire local venues for international matches but hoped their allegiance with the facility's management would change that.

"The last one (international game) we had, we had to go to Ewarton, as that field was up to standard. But it took us from our main audience. By hosting it here (Sabina Park), we can advertise and get crowd support, and that is what we want for our players, a home crowd for them to play in front of, and that gives them home-field advantage," he reasoned.

He added that Sabina Park was not the only venue they had identified, as they are looking at the Trelawny multipurpose stadium, as another option.

" The Jamaica Olympic Association has been crucial in acquiring the use of the venue (Sabina Park). The president (Chris Samuda) and I were having a chat and he asked why we don't use Sabina Park, and I asked how are we going to get that. But it's amazing how we have been able to forge a partnership with the Jamaica Cricket Association, and they reached out to say they want to see rugby grow. So if the grounds make rugby grow, then we are grateful.

"But this is one of two venues we want to establish in Jamaica. If we can keep this partnership, we will look at hosting major international tournaments in sevens and 15s, so our sights are also on the Trelawny multipurpose stadium. That field is big enough to have two fields with a lot of space left over and the atmosphere there is great," he said.

The inaugural Thundercats St Catherine Club Rugby tournament will also feature overseas-based internationals and according to Benzwick, this is just one of few international invitationals they want to establish locally.