Leading a national side is not a new thing for experienced Leitao, and the only new thing here would be that he is captaining the XVs side for the first time as he is the Cheetahs captain, having led the side to two consecutive World Cups.
And it remains to be seen if the Old Georgians captain will be able to translate his success from the Sevens to XVs as he is likely to continue in his new role if Zimbabwe manage to win at least one game in Madagascar next week.
Largely hurt by the player revolt that hit the Sables camp this week, the technical team yesterday named a rather weakened side ahead of their departure for the Africa Cup set for Madagascar next week.
Centre Daniel Hondo was ruled out due to an arm injury he suffered in Moscow at the Sevens World Cup last weekend, eighth-man Takunda Chifokoyo was earlier ruled out due to a hand injury while Scotland-based flanker Shingi Mpofu suffered an injury during the selection games.
The Sables are expected to leave the country tomorrow for Madagascar hoping to squeeze a victory in the opening game on Wednesday if they entertain any hopes of retaining their title as Africa champions.
Madagascar will take on Zimbabwe in the first semi-final while Kenya and Uganda battle in the other semi-final where the losers will fight for third place.
The side that loses in the third place play-off will be demoted.
The most notable name in the Zimbabwe squad, especially among the débutantes, is Lions’ flyhalf Guy Cronje, who traces his Zimbabwean roots through his paternal grandparents, having started with his twin brother Ross, for first game together in January for his South African franchise.
Other names in the squad include flanker Andrew Rose, who featured for both the Zimbabwe and Scotland age-grade teams, Martin Wolfenden, who is based in England and attended Plumtree School here in Zimbabwe. The other débutantes include forwards Daniel Nhepera, Simbarashe Bwanya and Mathew Mandioma, while back-line débutantes are scrummy Boyd Rouse, Craig Elcombe, the Cheetahs duo Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and French Top 14 side Bayonne player Garth Ziegler.
Chitokwindo and Ziegler were part of the Zimbabwe Sevens side that lost out in the Plate quarter-final to Samoa before finishing 13th in the 24-team world competition that ended in Moscow, Russia last week.
Lock Jan Ferreira, Jacques Leitao, Peit Joubert and Njabulo Ndlovu are the most experienced players in the side while the rest mostly have up to two caps for the Sables and this is where the main worry is going into the Africa Cup 1A tournament.
Assistant coach Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge will not be travelling with the side due to financial challenges within the Zimbabwe Rugby Union and coach Brandon Dawson has been forced to travel with a depleted back-line that only has one substitute for the two games.
There are only eight back-line players while the likely substitute for the first game is flyhalf Lenience Tambwera, and experience is also lacking in the front row where Jakov Jakov and Joubert seem to be the only strongholds.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Under-18 side for the Craven Week festival set for Limpopo next week will have their last training session here this morning at St George’s before their departure tomorrow morning.
Last night, also at St George’s, the schools’ rugby franchise hosted a send-off ceremony for the side, who are expected to take on Griquas on Monday morning at the Old Peter Makoba Stadium.
Sables: Daniel Nhepera, Jakov Jakov, Peit Joubert, Tapiwa Mangezi, Sanele Sibanda, Keith Murray, Jan Ferrera, Martin Wolfenden, Simbarashe Bwanya, Jacques Leitao(capt), Andrew Rose, Biselele Tshamala, Njabulo Ndlovu, Mathew Mandioma Boyd Rouse, Guy Cronje, Stephan Hunduza, Craig Elcombe, Shayne Makombe, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Garth Ziegler, Lenience Tambwera.
Under-18: Thabani Mujeni, Bart Zwart, Tapiwa Murangani, Tafadzwa Kufazvinei, Nicholas Burnett, Ivan Bawden, Daniel Moolman, Tinashe Gonese, Tinashe Gwisai, Rukudzo Gonah, Jabulani Mutukwa, Munyaradzi Mashaya, Thomas Chadwick, Brandon Boshi, Brendon Mandivenga, Steven Bhasera, Glynn Rorke, Tanaka Chikwezhero, Philangwezi Mudambanuki, Andrew Dollar, Justin Zietsman, Tawanda Ngosi.