Beast weighs in a ton

Hum­ble Mtawarira’s big voice to echo through­out his­tory as prop stands on the brink of ma­jor mile­stone

Pretoria News - - RACING -

JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN Bloem­fontein

SPRING­BOK as­sis­tant coach Matt Proudfoot has joined the cho­rus of voices singing the praises of vet­eran Bok prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira who is in line to make his 100th Test ap­pear­ance against Eng­land here on Satur­day.

Proudfoot, who is in his third year as Bok for­wards coach, said Mtawarira’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism was the rea­son why he had been able to get into the Bok team 10 years ago and stay there, mak­ing the No 1 jersey his own.

“He’s a pro­fes­sional, he takes care of his body, he works hard, he’s got a very good physique, and he takes care of it,” said Proudfoot in sum­ming up the Zim­babwe-born loose­head prop.

He con­tin­ued: “He’s hum­ble, he’s pre­pared to learn, he’s been able to ride out the ups and downs dur­ing his ca­reer, and he takes on the chin when he has been beaten.

“Loose­head prop is a po­si­tion where you win one (scrum) and you lose one.

“Beast is a con­fi­dent but he’s also hum­ble.”

If picked for Satur­day’s sec­ond Test against Eng­land here, which head coach Rassie Eras­mus said he would be, the 32-year-old will join an ex­clu­sive club of South Africans to have reached 100 Tests, which in­cludes Vic­tor Mat­field, Bryan Ha­bana, John Smit, Jean de Vil­liers and Percy Montgomery.

Bok boss Eras­mus said it was al­most un­be­liev­able to think that some­one could play 100 Test matches for their coun­try.

“It’s great (for Beast) ... how many peo­ple can say they achieved that? I played 39 Tests player, and it felt a lot ... 100 is phe­nom­e­nal.

“To think he started out at lock, then flank and to con­sol­i­date at prop, and to get to 100. He should be proud of him­self and we can be too.”

Mtawarira made his de­but in 2008 and has been part of the Bok squad ev­ery year since.

“It’s a fan­tas­tic achieve­ment for a very good man,” con­tin­ued Proudfoot. “I would love to see the statis­tics of how many games he’s started and how many he’s come off the bench ... I know a high per­cent­age of the games

sim­i­lar to (Eng­land head coach) Ed­die Jones in that sort of vein,” Hat­ley said.

“Now he has po­ten­tially a lot of insight with Schalk Brits in the squad, on those who he plays with at his club Sara­cens and a lot of play­ers that play in the league.

“If you are South African, you have an

were starts. It’s in­cred­i­ble; his longevity, with all the com­pe­ti­tion around and the de­mands of the po­si­tion ... it’s some­thing to savour. “I would now like to see our pack re­spond (this week­end), to make it a spe­cial one for him,” said the Bok for­wards coach. The media-shy and softly-spo­ken Mtawarira has cho­sen to not speak to the media this week, in­sist­ing he would pre­fer to fo­cus on the Test on Satur­day. But Proudfoot said the Sharks man was hardly a with­drawn fig­ure in the Bok pack. “Beast is a big voice in the pack, that is why he is so im­por­tant to us,” said Proudfoot. “Just

un­be­liev­able re­turn from Duane Ver­meulen and Faf de Klerk; it makes sense to bring in some­body… al­beit three or four weeks af­ter his re­tire­ment, to bring him straight in.

Brits was phe­nom­e­nal right to the end for Sara­cens, and the English know what he can of­fer, and thus now know what he can do against them should he get some game

look at the Sharks and what he has meant for a guy like Thomas du Toit, who is now start­ing at tight­head prop. A front row is al­ways about the com­bi­na­tion, and in our en­vi­ron­ment here (at the Boks) we’ve had some young guys, like Mal­colm Marx, Wilco Louw, com­ing through last year, and he gave so­lid­ity to the pack. “Beast is a big cor­ner­stone of what this team is about.”

Mtawarira is likely to have hooker Bongi Mbonambi next to him this Satur­day, but there could be a new man wear­ing the No 3 on his back.

Last week­end’s first choice tight­head, Louw, could sit out to make way for Du Toit or Eras­mus could sur­prise by nam­ing Frans Mal­herbe in the start­ing team.

The Boks will en­joy a rest day from train­ing to­day, with the coach sched­uled to name his team tomorrow.

time in the re­main­ing two Tests.

“Those guys that watch the Premier­ship know he is a spe­cial player; he is not just a good set­piece for­ward, he is good around the park, he has great feet, good de­fender, and brings a lot of life to the team,” Hat­ley added.

“I saw some of the re­port say­ing it is a stroke of ge­nius.”

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