Leolin Zas has his sights firmly set on the upcoming Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarter-final against Edinburgh after a “dream” campaign during which the Stormers wing has become the season’s leading try-scorer. DYLAN JACK reports.
Zas has dotted down 11 times to lead the season’s try-scoring charts, playing more than his own part in a dangerous back three for the Stormers with Warrick Gelant and Seabelo Senatla.
Having endured a nightmare few years after breaking his leg in 2017 and struggling at the Sharks for a couple of seasons, the 26-year-old told the media on Thursday that he is delighted with what he has been able to achieve in the campaign.
“Yeah, I’m very fortunate to be the leading try-scorer at the moment. It’s just a bonus,” said Zas. “We are playing exceptional rugby. The forwards work especially hard, we just do the magic stuff outside.
“For me, it is a big thing, especially if you look two years ago, I never thought I would be a leading try-scorer. It is still a bit of a dream. But I have made peace with it and my focus is fully on the quarter-final now.”
The Stormers have used the talents of Zas, Gelant and Senatla as well as centres Damian Willemse and Ruhan Nel and flyhalf Manie Libbok to tear teams to shreds this year. Oftentimes, the Capetonians have adopted an off-the-cuff style of play which has made them very difficult to predict.
“We are a bunch of guys who really know each other quite well,” Zas explained. “I have played with or against Warrick for about six or seven years now, so I know him quite well. The same goes with Ruhan and Damian. It’s all about knowing the guy next to you. That’s how we have gelled so well and know each other’s skill set.”
John Dobson’s men finished second overall and secured a home-quarter final by beating Scarlets with a bonus point in Wales. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Stormers, especially considering where they were after the home loss to the Lions in December.
Zas said a positive performance against Munster in Limerick, as well as the attitude they came back with after the December break, was key to the Stormers turning their season around.
“The Munster game gave us a lot of confidence. I know we didn’t win, but Munster is a quality team and we were new to the competition. We didn’t know or have any experience against those guys. After that game, we took a lot of confidence from our performance and realised that we were really in this.
“When we came back after that break, we set new goals and new standards. That was the turning point in the whole season. Things just started going our way. The home games were a beautiful thing. To run out at the stadium and see your fans and family … you take a lot of confidence out of that. It makes you a different person and a different player.”
With his try-scoring confidence rediscovered, Zas says he remains focused on the upcoming quarter-final against Edinburgh in Cape Town in June.
“Personally, I am the type of player who takes it week by week. I don’t get ahead of myself. I would like for people to now see a different side of me, not just the tries that I score. My focus right now is on winning that quarter-final and however I can contribute to that.”
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