Felling the Beast

Time for a change in that Spring­bok No 1 jer­sey, give the in-form young­sters a chance to shine

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

BEEEEEEEAAAAAAST! That chant has re­ver­ber­ated around sta­di­ums when­ever Tendai Mtawarira or Beast, as he is af­fec­tion­ately known, sets off on a charge or gets pos­ses­sion of the ball.

And it’s been the case for many years.

On match­days, when vi­su­als of the loose­head prop ap­pear on sta­dium screens as he walks to the dress­ing room with his head­phones on, he gets the same re­ac­tion or, at the very least, there are rip­ples of an­tic­i­pa­tion when his 1.85m, 116 kg frame is sighted.

Soon af­ter mak­ing his Su­per Rugby de­but back in 2007, Mtawarira be­came a cult fig­ure, es­pe­cially in the Shark Tank. And that quickly spread across South Africa. Later those fires of ex­cite­ment could be seen fur­ther than just the bor­ders of our coun­try.

Fast-for­ward to 2009 when the Springboks faced the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions in the first Test in Dur­ban, and Beast be­came even more of a hero.

He de­mol­ished the more ex­pe­ri­enced Phil Vick­ery in the scrums, which led to Vick­ery be­ing sub­sti­tuted af­ter 45 min­utes and Beast, of course, re­ceived the Man of the Match award.

That was un­doubt­edly his ca­reer high­light.

But what has Beast done re­cently to show that he’s still got it?

Where are those ram­pag­ing runs that used to send crowds into a frenzy?

In re­cent years, we’ve seen pre­cious lit­tle of it.

What we do see, when­ever he fea­tures for the Sharks or the Springboks is him get­ting the ball and run­ning head down to gain one me­tre in ground, if that. We see him con­ced­ing scrum penal­ties. And we don’t see nearly enough of an im­pact from him in open play to war­rant those Beast chants that still do the rounds.

Dur­ing the Springboks’ first Test against France at Lof­tus, Beast car­ried the ball once, that’s right once, and he gained no ground. He was guilty of two han­dling er­rors and also con­ceded a scrum penalty.

I should prob­a­bly add that he made 12 tack­les and he didn’t miss one, but you can’t fea­ture in a match just to make tack­les.

In the sec­ond Test, Beast’s game was praised (although he had his hands full at scrum time again). Why? Be­cause he was ac­tu­ally (a bit more) vis­i­ble in open play and he won a scrum penalty. But yet it seems to have con­ve­niently gone un­no­ticed that he also con­ceded a penalty at the set­piece and one in bro­ken play.

Yes, in Su­per Rugby there were iso­lated times when he car­ries well, but it hasn’t been con­sis­tent. In fact, the only thing I think has been con­sis­tent in Mtawarira’s game has been him con­ced­ing scrum penal­ties.

This week Spring­bok as­sis­tant coach Matt Proud­foot said: “To say a player with 90 caps is past it, is crazy”. And that might be true. But if that player’s form sug­gests he might in fact be past it, then it’s not so crazy. Not at all.

I agree that Beast brings a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and that he can be a good men­tor to the younger front-rankers, but that shouldn’t be the sole rea­son for him be­ing ce­mented in the Bok squad.

I think it’s time for the other guys to come into play. Guys like Steven Kit­shoff and Trevor Nyakane, to name only two.

I be­lieve that Kit­shoff can do great things for the Boks. He brings a dif­fer­ent dy­namic.

Not only is he a pow­er­ful scrum­mager, but he can add a lot in open play, too. And that tackle in Kings Park rat­tled the French deep into their bones.

Nyakane, on the other hand, can play at both loose­head and tight­head, and he can scrum.

And when it comes to gen­eral play, he’s one of the best ball-car­ry­ing props you’ll see up front.

Th­ese are guys who of­fer a lot – not just the ab­so­lute ba­sics that a prop must have, but a lit­tle ex­tra as well.

So, it’s time they get a de­cent shot.

In fact, the shelf life of play­ers should stop be­ing the ul­ti­mate fo­cus point.

It’s time that we stop test­ing how long we can squeeze a few more de­cent per­for­mances out of “ex­pe­ri­enced” play­ers be­fore we look to the younger guys.

Es­pe­cially when those younger guys come in the shape of a Kit­shoff or a Nyakane.

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