In his seven years as a Springbok rugby player Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira has become a fan favourite at home and abroad.
Tendai Mtawarira has come a long way since having to share a pair of rugby boots with his brother Brian. Now an integral part of the Cell C Sharks and the Springboks, the friendly-faced prop is also a fan favourite around the world.
You’d expect appreciative cries of “Beeeaaaasssttt” at King’s Park, Soccer City and Newlands, but the chanting doesn’t stop there.
From Paris to London to Mendoza, the crowds welcome The Beast with an almighty roar. That, and pulling on the Springbok jersey, is something Mtawarira never tires of.
Before a big game the excitement courses through him. “I so get excited and there are lots of emotions at the same time,” says Mtawarira. “I look at the jersey, listen to my music and visualise my job. The national anthem is so special but when the whistle blows, it’s show time.”
Mtawarira’s career reached a peak early on, when he was part of the Springbok team that beat the British & Irish Lions in a thrilling series in 2009. The first Test against the Lions was just his 11th outing in Springbok colours, yet along with Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit (playing at prop), he helped destroy a feared Lions front row that included the powerful Gethin Jenkins and the legendary English prop Phil Vickery.
After the match John Smit said the success was down to preparation and the hard work of the Boks in practice. It’s something that Mtawarira lives by. “I keep working hard and I always look to evolve and learn as a player,” he says. “People sometimes say that it’s easy to get to the top but difficult to stay there. It takes lots of hard work and sacrifice. Hard work is imperative if you want to do well. You can’t afford to take anything for granted in this game.”
To better your best, he adds, takes commitment. “If you want to be the greatest, you have to push yourself."
With over 58 Bok caps to his name, with surely more to come, and a Rugby World Cup on the horizon, Mtawarira’s career is on an exciting path. It’s a path that any young rugby player could follow too, if they take to heart the advice that worked for him. “Dream big,” he says. “Anything is possible when you really believe it. Work hard on your individual skills, cherish every moment and enjoy your junior rugby.”