By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE-BORN Springboks prop, Tendai Mtawarira will be eyeing a memorable farewell to international rugby when he leads the South Africa side into the Rugby World Cup final against England in Japan on Saturday.
The legendary 34-year-old prop, universally known as “Beast”, will be one of South Africa’s key players in the tournament final on Saturday in what is likely to be his last match in international rugby appearance for the Springboks.
Speaking to international media in Japan ahead of the much-anticipated match, Mtawarira described playing in a Rugby World Cup final as “a dream come true” for him having worked hard throughout his career to achieve that goal.
“To be part of a World Cup final is a dream come true for me,” Mtawarira said. “I have worked hard throughout my career to get here and I want to make it count. We just want to go out there and represent our country the best we can.”
Mtawarira, who became the second black Zimbabwean to play for the Springboks after Tonderai Chavhanga, when he made his debut in 2008, said he did not watch South Africa’s first World Cup triumph in 1995 as he was more interested in football at the time.
“I was just a primary school kid in Zimbabwe back then. I didn’t watch rugby. I was playing soccer,” recalled the veteran Springbok loosehead.
However, when the Springboks won their second World Cup title in 2007, Mtawarira was rising through the ranks in South Africa and being tipped to become a future star.
“In 2007, though [when South Africa beat England in the final in Paris], I did watch and it was amazing, inspirational stuff.”
Born and raised in Harare, Mtawarira attended Churchill High School in Harare for five years before being given a full scholarship to the elite Peterhouse Boys’ School in Marondera.
In quick succession, he found himself in the Zimbabwe Under-19s, the Natal Sharks and then the Springboks
The Beast is a hero of the South African game but was almost denied his Test career by politics.
In 2010 – two years after his debut, and 12 months after tearing the British & Irish Lions front row to shreds – the South African government tried to have the star deported back to Zimbabwe.
The South African government at the time had introduced a new policy which meant only South African nationals were eligible to play for the Springboks, and since he was born and raised in Harare, he could not fit in.
For six months he sat, waited and wished to be regarded as South African.
“I am a South African at heart,” he said at the time. “I love this country. It has become my home. It is everything to me. Wearing the green and gold of the Springboks is a huge honour for me. That jersey is part of me. The green and gold flows in my blood.”
Mtawarira was finally was accepted as a citizen and went on to become a rugby great in his adopted nation.
Only 2007 World Cup winners Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana have played more international matches for South Africa than him now.
He is now on the verge of joining them as a world champion.