ZIMBABWE Sevens rugby captain, Jacques Leitao, says the team is more determined to defend its Lusaka Castle Lager Sevens crown in Zambia this weekend to atone for the close Tusker Safari Sevens semi-final defeat to hosts Kenya last weekend.
Despite reportedly playing some of the most entertaining rugby at Tusker, the Cheetahs lost 14-7 in the semis, failing to repeat their feat of last year when they upset the IRB circuit seeds Kenya in front of a 10 000-strong partisan home crowd.
“It wasn’t because of performance that we lost to Kenya,” Leitao said. “The ball just didn’t bounce our way. It was a good match. When we play Kenya both team raise their game. Its always physical and entertaining stuff.”
Vindicating the Zimbabwe result, the Kenyans proceeded to beat pre-tournament favourites Emerging Springboks 31-12 in the final, to clinch the 13th edition of Africa’s premier Sevens rugby event.On the Lusaka tournament this weekend, Leitao said: “We won it last year and there is a good sort of pressure on us to do it again this year. We know we are the favourites and that will carry us through. After playing so well in Kenya and losing in the semis, it will be nice to win the tournament again in Zambia.”
Zimbabwe beat Mpumalanga last year to clinch the tournament.
The 25-year-old from Mutare took over from John Ewing as Zimbabwe Sevens captain in 2006. Educated at Hillcrest College, the former Zimbabwe Under-21 international represented Manicaland at schools level before moving to the capital in 2001 where he joined Harare Sports Club.
A XVs flanker with strong attributes in fetching and turnover situations, Leitao is used as a prop or hooker in sevens. He is the vice-captain of the national XVs team, the Sables, and captain of domestic rugby giants, Districts Dragons.
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs are travelling to the Zambian capital with five other teams, two national reserve sides – the Goshawks and the Zambezi Marauders – as well as Harare Sports Club and two women’s teams. The Cheetahs coach Liam Middleton has retained the squad that played in Kenya, but playmaker Willis Magasa must pass a fitness test after injuring his shoulder.