The most-capped Springbok prop ever, TENDAI MTAWARIRA is also one of South Africa’s most popular and recognisable players. Cheers of ‘Beeeast!’ resonate in a stadium when he touches the ball, for his bone-crushing tackles and ability to gain that extra metre make him one of the world’s most exciting props.
It may therefore not be that surprising that he was a big and unusually difficult child who was expelled from nursery school and was quite a bully in his earlier years.
Having overcome several challenging injuries and an ongoing heart condition, Tendai doesn’t always walk the easy path but at 31 he is still going strong for the Springboks as well as Durban-based Super Rugby team The Sharks. Here he speaks exclusively to thislife online
Tendai Mtawarira: He used to be a bully, now he wants to be a world changer | Photo: Vaughan Treyvellan
Start of your rugby career? I was nine. A rugby coach saw me playing football in the street and suggested I might be better suited to rugby. I didn’t like it to start with, I loved soccer much more. But high school changed that
Schooldays at Peterhouse? I enjoyed everything. I boarded and the environment was, and still is, the best for learning and focusing on your sporting career. I wanted to study hard, be successful and repay their belief in me
Best rugby moment? Being selected for the Springboks. Awesome
South Africa? I love this country, it’s so diverse. It’s become my home and it’s everything to me. Green and gold flow in my blood
Memorable experience? In 2006 I had a frustrating knee injury. They said I would take eight weeks to recover, but after 10 weeks I still couldn’t run. I went to church and prayed about it with the people there. When I arrived there, I couldn’t run, but when I left, I could! It was a wonderful experience
Thoughts about injury and illness? I feel there is a plan for my life so I train hard and focus on rehab
What changed you from being a bully? I guess God changed me. I connected with him at 16 and I think the way you behave and think after that is not the same
Greatest dream? To leave a mark, be a world changer!
BORN: Harare, Zimbabwe, 1985
PARENTS: Property manager and housewife
SCHOOLING: Churchill Boys’ High School, then scholarship to Peterhouse Boys’, both in/near Harare
HOW HE CAME SOUTH: spotted on a school rugby tour to SA in 2004 and offered a bursary by the Sharks Academy
SPRINGBOK STATUS: first game for the Springboks against Wales in 2008, named Man of the Match one week later against Italy. In 2010, a nationality controversy barred him from playing for South Africa but he was eventually granted SA citizenship and allowed back in the squad
FAMILY: Tendai and his wife Kuziva have a daughter, Talumba and son, Wangu
FAVOURITE POWER FOOD: chutney chicken with loads of veg