South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira during training. Picture: REUTERS / EDGAR SU
South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira during training. Picture: REUTERS / EDGAR SU

Increasingly‚ with a weight of 116 Test matches and counting‚ Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira is being asked to share his wisdom.

Taciturn for most of his career‚ Mtawarira is increasingly finding his voice and willing to share his opinion.

He has even written a book that got social media trolls in a froth over opinions he expressed about a former coach. He has had to push back the book’s launch date.

When Mtawarira was quizzed about the impact Rassie Erasmus has had on the Bok setup‚ "Beast" had something sage to say‚ though it may not get a universal social media thumbs-up.

“He’s very honest. He says it as it is‚” Mtawarira said of Erasmus on Wednesday. “That is something I haven’t had before with most of the Springbok coaches. That is something I really appreciate. I think it is one of the reasons the players really respect him.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing this team evolve, to get to see so many guys of colour who have been really excellent and deserving of their places in the squad
Tendai Mtawarira, Springbok loosehead prop

“He adds a lot of value to a Test match‚” said the loosehead prop who has played Test matches under Peter de Villiers‚ Heyneke Meyer‚ Allister Coetzee and now Erasmus.

“Rassie is a really good coach. He has changed a lot of things. We have to go through pressure moments in the game beforehand. We always chat about what we are going to do in those moments‚” Mtawarira said.

It is important to have a representative Springbok team, and Erasmus has played a crucial part in establishing that, he said.

“I’ve had the privilege of seeing this team evolve, to get to see so many guys of colour who have been really excellent and deserving of their places in the squad.

“It was something that Rassie was pretty honest about from the onset, that we need to get the balance correct. We need to get a team that represents our country. We have achieved that‚” Mtawarira said.

The 34-year-old senses the coach has brought them to the cusp of glory.

“Everything has led to this moment. I’m very proud. I’ve walked a long road. I’m just looking forward to making SA proud.

“It would be amazing‚” he said if the Boks were to win a third Rugby World Cup. 

Bomb Squad

“A lot has gone into this, [such as] Siya’s [Kolisi’s] walk to get here, but we have to focus on the process of getting there first and don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

The other loosehead in the match-day team‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ can also feel something stir. His impact has lately been felt late in the game as part of the Boks’ bench‚ the so-called “Bomb Squad”.

A powerful surge in the scrum helped put the matter to bed in the closing minutes of a tight semifinal against Wales, and a similar scenario must have played out in his mind at some point in his career.

“Scrums can win or lose you a game in big moments. So I have definitely thought about pressure scrums a lot in my career‚ and what the best outcome would be‚” Kitshoff said.

Tighthead prop Vincent Koch‚ another member of the increasingly notorious “Bomb Squad”, would not be drawn into comparing the forwards who start to those who end the match.

“Both packs are similar‚” Koch said. “What we are doing is to have a full 80-minute performance. I won’t say one pack is better than the other.

“Our impact is to keep the game as good as the starters did and try our best to keep it at that level,” he said.

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