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Leitao hangs up his boots

Zimbabwe rugby stalwart Jacques Leitao has retired from rugby, bringing the curtain down on a very successful international and domestic rugby career spanning over a decade.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The 35-year-old former Zimbabwe Sevens captain, who is widely acknowledged as one of the best Zimbabwean players of the modern era, confirmed the news in a statement on his Facebook page yesterday.

“A new year has come and a new season starts. Deciding when to retire has been a tough but necessary decision. It’s been 12 years playing international rugby for Zimbabwe and what a time it has been,” Leitao said.

“There have been lots of highs and lows but thankful to God for the talents and gifts he has blessed me with and the protection he has given me throughout that time. Kelly [his wife] you have been amazing through it all and we are so blessed to have our two little super fans Chloe and Haylee. Thanks to all my family, the coaches, players and physios, it’s been an awesome journey and one which we will have many stories to reminisce about.

“Rugby truly brings people together on and off the field and builds strong bonds of friendship. It’s been a team effort, thank you all who supported me on this journey. Looking forward to the next season in my life. Philippians 4:13,” he said.

Leitao captained the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team for over a decade, leading the Cheetahs — as the team is affectionately known — to two Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments and several Bowl and Shield trophies on the World Rugby Sevens Series circuit.

The versatile loose forward was also vice-captain of the senior national XVs rugby team for many years and was one of the team’s standout players when the Sables narrowly missed out on qualification to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

Leitao began his career at Hillcrest College Junior School and later Hilcrest College before moving to the capital, where he initially joined Harare Sports Club.

While at Sportivo, Leitao was selected into the star-studded Zimbabwe Under-21 side where he teamed up with such players as former Springbok star Brian Mujati, ex-Sables skipper Cleopas Makotose and Gardner Nechironga, among others.

Leitao is also credited for transforming Old Georgians into a dominant force on the domestic rugby circuit after his move to the Groombridge-based side.

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