By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE-BORN World Cup-winning South Africa rugby prop Tendai Mtawarira has signed for Washington-based team American rugby team Old Glory DC, which will enter Major League Rugby in February next year.
Mtawarira retired from international rugby after South Africa’s World Cup triumph in Japan before also ending his lengthy stint with Super Rugby side Sharks.
He said he was relishing the opportunity to be part of the new American competition.
“I’m really excited to come play rugby in Washington DC for Old Glory,” the man popularly known as “the Beast” said after signing a one-year deal with his new team while on a visit to New York City.
“This conversation started quite a while back, it’s probably been over 10 months, chatting about the possibility of pursuing a career in America.”
Mtawarira was born in Zimbabwe, but played 117 times for the Springboks in a storied career which came to an end after the World Cup final against England in Yokohama last month.
He played Currie Cup and Super Rugby for the Sharks, based in Durban, and also turned out for the Barbarians.
The move to Washington was managed by Kyros Sports, a sports marketing company Mtawarira co-owns with the former Zimbabwe youth international Kudakwashe Chirengende.
“I’ve been a loyal player to the Sharks and the Springboks,” Mtawarira said, “and I have had an amazing career. I’ve been blessed to have that longevity and eventually come out of it as a World Cup winner. I was always looking for a great opportunity overseas after that.
“Coming to America excited me the most. The league is still young and for me to be part of something that is still brand new and to be a mentor to young rugby players, that really excited me. I want to give back a lot more because I was given a hell of a lot from the game. It changed my life, literally.”
Mtawarira was linked to Gloucester in the English Premiership but he said “the US excited me very much, above going to France [or England].
“Yes, the money’s big in France and big in Europe but I wanted to be part of something that might contribute to my legacy.
“America really excites me: they say it’s the land of opportunity.”
Mtawarira’s trip to the US to sign for DC also brought the opportunity to watch LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers but he remains focused on rugby.
Old Glory DC coach Andrew Douglas said they were at relishing the opportunity of working with one of the world’s most revered players.
“It’s exciting to have one of the worlds best players here at Old Glory,” Douglas said in a statement on the team’s official website.
“As a coach, not only am I excited about what Tendai brings to the pitch, but also what he brings to our environment. He is an excellent professional and the values and character he brings will be important in raising the bar for the whole squad.
“To have a guy who has played 117 test matches yet is still so hard working and humble can only be beneficial for us. The signing takes the league to another level.”
Mtawarira, now 34, follows other former internationals into the competition whose squads are dominated by players from the US and Canada.
He joins fellow world champion Ma’a Nonu among the leading lights of the American league that also includes ex-France captain Mathieu Bastareaud, Argentina back-row Juan Manuel Leguizamon and ex-England fullback Ben Foden.