Leolin Zas says he has left a “dark place” behind him and fully embraced the Stormers’ stylish brand of rugby in 2022, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
Zas has notched the second-most tries (five) for the Stormers in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship this season, forming a dangerous back three for the Capetonians with Warrick Gelant and Seabelo Senatla.
John Dobson’s men are sixth in the URC, with the breathtaking finishing of the likes of Zas proving pivotal to their three successive wins over European opponents, yet it’s hard to believe that the wing almost called it a day after enduring several difficult seasons.
The 26-year-old broke his leg in a warm-up win over the Lions in 2017, before returning to Western Province and the Stormers in 2019 after a troubled two seasons at the Sharks.
Ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the Ospreys at Cape Town Stadium, Zas said: “It was a tough journey but I’m more mature now, I’m a better player. Coming back three years ago, I was in a bit of a dark place and almost decided this game maybe wasn’t for me … but I stuck in there.
“It was tough being injured and not playing and I thought the break [at the Sharks] would’ve been good, but I don’t think it was a mistake.”
Zas says playing for WP in the Currie Cup this season also helped revive his passion for the sport: “I’m a strong believer in that you need to play to get better, and that’s why the Currie Cup is there for guys who aren’t playing in the URC – it helped with my confidence playing there.
“I am now enjoying my rugby, and the [Stormers’] style of play is suiting me – and if I can get over the line I won’t complain!”
Stormers backline coach Dawie Snyman added: “I watched him play Super Rugby aged 19, he was phenomenal. His injury was a setback, especially for a guy who relies on speed and agility, and it was also sad when we lost him.
“It was a bit of a journey for him coming back … but he has shown his maturity about going to the Currie Cup, it shows his mindset. Now he is really shooting the lights out and he’s getting his reward.”
The Ospreys were run ragged in Friday’s defeat by the Lions in Joburg, so Zas expects the Welsh outfit to switch things up in Cape Town. “There will be lots of contestables and taking a lot of balls out the air – I expect a lot of high balls!”