John Dobson has applauded Leolin Zas for bouncing back from a lull in his career with a timely, two-try reminder of his value to the Stormers. DYLAN JACK reports.
Zas scored a try in each half to help the Stormers claim a vital bonus-point win against the Ospreys at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
The 26-year-old has been in red-hot form this year and even contributed in midfield when needed. The brace against Ospreys took his tally for the season to seven tries in five games, placing him second on the season’s top try-scorers list.
Having shown great promise as a youngster coming through the ranks, Zas has not had a straightforward progression to this point. In 2017, Zas broke his leg in a warm-up match against the Lions. Desperate for a change to regain his form, he moved to the Sharks in the 2018, but soon returned home after two troubled seasons in Durban.
Earlier in the week, Zas admitted that he went through a “dark period” during which he nearly called it a day on his rugby career, but added that he has since rediscovered his love for the game.
“Yeah, he is doing well,” Dobson said on the winger’s form after the win against Ospreys. “He is now one of the top try-scorers in the competition.
“He played well in the Currie Cup and we rewarded him with that game against Zebre and he has just taken his chance with both hands, so I am pleased for him. He has been through a tough time in his career over the last couple of years, so it is great.”
Dobson said that, with all things considered, he was delighted that the Stormers had come away with all five points from their game against Ospreys.
The home side were without utility forward Ernst van Rhyn, hookers Scarra Ntubeni and Andre-Hugo Venter and fullback Warrick Gelant due to injuries. Gelant’s injury meant that Damian Willemse was shifted to fullback and Rikus Pretorius started in midfield.
By contrast, Ospreys welcomed back eight Wales internationals, including experienced flyhalf Gareth Anscombe and lock Adam Beard.
While the Stormers started brilliantly, scoring three tries in the first 30 minutes, they only managed to add one more over the next 50 and conceded a try at the death.
“I agree that the ending doesn’t feel nice and that it’s anticlimactic when they scored at the end. But I was really happy with that performance, given the quality of opposition,” Dobson explained.
“We also lost a leader in Ernst van Rhyn, Scarra and Andre-Hugo weren’t there and Warrick Gelant has been the guy everybody is writing up. We had to move Gaza [Willemse] out of position and start Rikus Pretorius.
“There were those circumstances and we were playing in conditions which obviously were much more comfortable for Ospreys than what we have seen in the last few weeks.
“It was a banana peel for us, because we had just beaten Ulster, who were very hyped up, and we have the Bulls next week and, as I said in the week, Ospreys aren’t a sexy brand in South Africa. We really squeezed the team hard this week and they responded well.”
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