Zas a ‘fearless character’ for Stormers

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But the 20-year-old Hermanus High product was quick to explain just how tough the greatest rugby competition in the world is during a press conference at the team’s training headquarters in Bellville on Monday.

Zas showed terrific pace when he opened his account against the Cheetahs, and this past Saturday at Newlands, those long strides were evidence once more when he claimed his second five-pointer against the Sharks.

The SA Under-20 wing was well behind play when Cheslin Kolbe put in that perfectly-weighted grubber into the Sharks 22, but Zas chased after it and beat Springbok fullback Willie le Roux to grab his second touchdown in the competition.

He told Independent Media that he doesn’t know what his 100m time is exactly – “probably under 11 seconds” was all he could offer – but there’s no doubt that Zas has real speed.

But it’s been a quick rise to the top for the youngster who was born in Worcester, as he was still playing provincial under-21 rugby last year under Fleck. “It’s not easy at all. The players around me make it much more easier as they are playing at this level (longer). I had a bit of luck with the try on Saturday, but I take it as it comes,” Zas said on Monday.

“I didn’t think I would be here last year, as I didn’t even play a Vodacom Cup game last year. But I had a good Under-21 campaign with Fleck as coach. JP (Pietersen) was my star at a point, and I looked up to him. When we warmed up, I saw JP standing on my side of the wing – I thought ‘Okay, I’m playing JP!’. And a guy like Ndungane… I was a small boy and I didn’t know they were twins, and I thought he played two games in a row!

“So I just wanted to show everyone else that I can do the same that they’ve been doing for a few years now. I was just hungry, playing against them.”

Fleck knows him well and didn’t hesitate to pick Zas when Kobus van Wyk sustained an ankle injury against the Bulls. “He’s worked incredibly hard on his game this year. He’s still a bit raw, but the talent is there, and more importantly, the attitude is there. He is a fearless character and he will take on any challenge that comes his way,” Fleck said about his left wing.

“He just wants the ball in his hands, and the more he plays, the better he’ll get. But he’s up for any challenge and takes it in stride.

“We are working harder on getting our wingers more involved, and we were playing at a high tempo and high intensity – we were playing heads-up rugby. But it was a fine defensive performance by the Sharks, and in a way, I’m glad it happened as it showed us where we are in our attack and that we need to be smarter. Leolin’s chase made the kick (from Kolbe) good.”

But if he thought that Sergeal Petersen, Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen were tough to handle, Zas will have yet another searching test when Wallaby wings Joe Tomane and Henry Speight rock up for the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday (7.15pm kickoff).

They have everything a wing needs – pace, power, physicality and that innate ability to sniff out tries.

Zas seems to have those attributes as well, but will have his hands full, particularly in dealing with the Brumbies’ kicking game after he was beaten in the air a few times in the Sharks match.

“The Brumbies, it’s pure line-speed, they’re up and in and everybody goes in at the breakdown,” Fleck said of the Australians’ in-your-face defence.

But perhaps the relatively unknown Zas can surprise Stormers once more. “Every game is a big challenge, and to face the Brumbies and measure yourself against guys with Test caps…”

Meanwhile, Fleck said that there were no new injuries, although star locks Eben Etzebeth (minor food poisoning from “cold braai meat!”) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (blow to the back of the neck) sat out training as a precaution on Monday.

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

Original source: Zas a ‘fearless character’ for Stormers

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