OFF THE FIELD

cheetahsTop rugby talent, Jacques Leitao -- who doubles up as captain of Zimbabwes Cheetahs sevens side and vice-captain of fifteens side, the Sables -- shared a lighter moment with the Zimbabwean on Sundays Grace Chirumanzu at Mukuvisi Woodlands last Wednesday. (Pictured: Jacques Leitao pauses with Diesel, a domesticated cheetah kept by Roxy Dankwerts.) (Pic by Grace Chirum


In a wide-ranging interview Leitao tells of his passion for the game and his decision to stand up for his country at a time many players of his generation have made fortunes plying their trade in richer foreign lands. Excerpts:
Grace Chirumanzu (GC): Who in the rugby world is a role model to you, the one individual you look up to and want to be like them?
Jacques Leitao (JL): I am usually inspired by other rugby players who play so well, like the All Blacks Richy Macaw. I do not really have a favorite player but I just enjoy watching rugby and I get inspired by players who play well.
GC: A wild game played by gentlemen is how some have described rugby, is this a fair assessment of the game?
JL: Well, I guess it is a fair one. When we get on the field we hold nothing back, there will be no time for any gentlemanly behavior — no time for jokes. The war is certainly on the field, but off the pitch, we are all good gentlemen. We get to release the tension from the pitch by interacting with each other because we have many characters in the team that make for good company.
GC: A lot of rugby players have left the country in recent years for better offers abroad, where does this leave the future of the game in Zimbabwe?
JL: Well I believe the future is still bright despite losing players because we are always getting new players coming up each year. We had five new players in the sevens side recently and if we can continue holding onto the guys who want to play for our country it will be okay.
GC: You are Cheetahs (sevens side) captain as well as Sables (fifteens side) vice captain, in your view why has Zimbabwe fared better in sevens rugby than in the 15-player game?
JL: Mmm That is a difficult one, but I think the competitions at the fifteens level are a bit challenging because we get to face bigger and stronger guys though it shouldnt be an excuse.
GC: And what really has kept you home when others as talented as you are have opted to try their luck in foreign lands where rewards are better?
JL: (smiles) Well, it is all about sacrifices and the pride within oneself. We make a lot of sacrifices in the job area and in our families and when we go onto the field to represent our nation it then make it all worth it.
GC: Which of the two versions of rugby, the sevens and fifteens, do you prefer?
JL: I can say sevens is a lot more exciting, It is just unfortunate we get less time than the fifteens. There is need for faster players when it comes to the sevens side unlike in the fifteens where you can afford to be slower.
GC: And to the future, what is the hope and dream of the Cheetahs captain and Sables vice captain?
JL: It is unfortunate we missed the qualifiers to the World Cup, last year. But my dream is to play at the World Cup.
GC: Thank you for your time captain, we wish you all the best at the Tusker sevens in Kenya.
JL: Thank you Grace.

FACTFILE
Fullnames Jacques Delfim Leitao
D.O.B 30 July 1982
P.O.B Mutare
Former Club: Harare Sports Club
Club: District Dragons

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