“What a career, what a man!”
It is perhaps fitting that it was former Springbok and Sharks captain John Smit who neatly summed up the career of the very recently retired Tendai “Beast” Mtawaria.
Smit was interviewing The Beast not long after the final whistle at Yokohama and said, with an arm around the sweaty prop: “Beasty, I had the privilege of playing many a game with you and I can honestly say that when you get angry, or something or someone flicks your switch, nobody in the front row can live with you!”
Smit went on to commend Mtawarira for his hunger to stay in great physical shape that resulted in the longevity of his career – over 11 years, The Beast played a whopping 117 Tests, with only Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana playing more.
Speaking of the legendary winger, Habana said on Twitter: “The MAIN GUY!! What a privilege it has been to have witnessed your career and what a way to finish. Thanks for everything you gave the jersey and more!!! The hours of sacrifice that not everybody saw!! Wishing you and the family all the best for the next phase of your lives!!”
Another former Springbok wing, and like Mtawarira a former Zimbabwean, Tonderai Chavhanga, exclaimed: “What a career, what a man!
Rob Louw, a Springbok of a much earlier vintage, praised Mtawarira for the manner in which he conducted himself on and off the pitch.
“This guy has been incredibly loyal to above all the Sharks and to SA rugby. He will go down as one of the true gentlemen of the game and one of the greats! Welcome, Beast, to the ‘when-we! bench’.”
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, paid tribute to Mtawarira, the “gentle giant” who was a fixture in the green and gold No 1 jersey since making his Test debut in the second Test against Wales in Pretoria in 2008, and played his last Springbok match in Yokohama last week.
“Beast is someone who never complained, always put in the hard work and simply got on with his job in his typically unassuming way,” said Alexander.
“When he first got an opportunity at the Sharks, he rode a bicycle to training, which perfectly sums up not only his humbleness, but his desire to make it to the top. He worked very hard to achieve what he has and we’re all very proud of him.
“Beast, thank you for what you’ve done for South African rugby, to show that Springboks can indeed be gentle giants, and for never putting your own interests above that of the team.
“We salute you and will miss you in green and gold.”