By Hafiz Marikar
Veteran Sanjeewa Jayasinghe a hero of the club for many a season and Sri Lanka national player has announced his decision to retire from the game at the end of the Clifford Cup Knock-out tournament. A proud product of Science College, where he excelled in cricket and athletics, Jayasinghe is easily the best Rugby sevens player produced by the country after the legendary Hisham Abdeen.
Jayasinghe began his club rugby career for Havelocks SC where his talent was spotted by the club’s stalwarts Ana Saranapala, Chaminda Rupasinghe and Kolitha Gunatilake. Jayasinghe played for the park club from 1998 and since then has been an automatic choice for the national team bringing honour and fame to his motherland with his scintillating display on the rugby field. He led the Havies in the year 2001 at the young age of 22.
In the following year 2002, Jayasinghe moved over to Kandy SC and later captained the side as well. The last league game between Kandy SC and Havelocks SC was a very special occasion as he had represented and captained both clubs with distinction and in recognition of that feat he was given the honour to lead the side. At the end of this game special awards were made by Etisalaat – the sponsors of Kandy SC- to Sanjeewa Jayasinghe for his contribution to rugby in Sri Lanka.
Jayasinghe was not only an attacking player but also a fierce tackler which made him a complete ruggerite, who could have found a place in any sevens team in the World. The most memorable performance in his rugby career spanning 14 years was at the Dubai Sevens in 2001 when he was honoured with the captaincy of the Sri Lanka Sevens team.
He stole the limelight by scoring seven tries in five outings which is perhaps still the best performance by a Sri Lanka ruggerite in an International Sevens tournament in recent years. In the very first game in the Group “A” against formidable Scotland, he followed a grubber kicked by Kandy S.C’s Nalaka Weerakody picked up the ball and sped over 20 metres to fall over for a glorious try. In the very next game against the mighty All Blacks, he scored perhaps the best try of the tournament. He collected a kick by a New Zealand defender in the Sri Lanka “40” and unleashed a breath-taking 60 metre run to score a spectacular try and received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of over 12,000 at the Dubai Rugby Stadium. He followed it up by scoring two scintillating tries against the strong Portugal team in their final group match.
He proved to be a source of inspiration to his teammates in the Bowl championship quarter finals against Kenya by scoring two superb tries which saw the Lankans emerge victorious by 22 points to 14.
Sanjeewa scored anther brilliant try against the mighty Welshmen in the Bowl semifinals which saw the Sri Lankans come up with a stupendous performance to go down fighting to Wales by 12 points to 24. It brought Sanjeewa’s haul of tries to seven, what a remarkable display indeed.
Jayasinghe’s retirement from the game will leave a void that will be hard to fill for both his club and the national team and his exciting displays and swift sizzling runs down the wing will be missed by the thousands of rugby fans whom he delighted over the years.