Veteran 'Beast' Mtawarira prepares for his third Rugby World Cup
“Who says it's the last one?” joked veteran Springbok prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira‚ who'll be going to his third Rugby World Cup.
Whether it's his last‚ it remains to be seen‚ but he's the most capped Springbok in the 31-man squad.
The way he's played this season for both franchise and country‚ he's rolled back the clock‚ his form has been reminiscent of the time when he folded British and Irish Lions prop Phil Vickery like a deckchair back in 2009.
It's a different year and a different World Cup with its own set of challenges‚ but none of which faze the seasoned Mtawarira.
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“It is my third successive World Cup and the feeling never grows on you.
"I play for this great team and get to represent this great nation.
"I'm excited for the next few weeks‚” Mtawarira said.
“The other two World Cups have come with pretty hard lessons that I had to learn‚ but I hope with those lessons‚ I can add value to the team for this team.”
The only trophies that have evaded Mtawarira in his career is the Rugby World Cup and Super Rugby.
He's twice been a losing Super Rugby finalist‚ but the previous two World Cup sojourns in New Zealand and England ended at the hands of Australia and New Zealand respectively.
The Springboks now have the benefit of meeting the latter country in their opening game of the World Cup in Yokohama on September 21‚ paving the way for the rest of the tournament to fine-tune their weak points ahead of a prospective quarterfinal against Ireland or Scotland.
Should the Boks go all the way‚ it would mean the world to Mtawarira in a tournament where he feels any side could be in the final.
“It would mean the world to me. It would be the pinnacle of my career and it's part of my life's work to be picked for this team.
"I want to improve as a player and I tried my best to make this squad.
"Now that I've made it‚ I just want to give everything to contribute to the team so that it can be successful‚” Mtawarira said.
“It's also pretty open‚ the World Cup that is because so many teams believe they can win it.
"There's a lot of teams with a chance and we're the underdogs and it's a nice place to be. We just need to speak with our actions.”
During the course of his 11-year‚ 110-Test career‚ Mtawarira is a valued member of the Bok squad and didn't find himself jettisoned like veteran All Black prop Owen Franks‚ who's 108 matches worth of experience and scrumming skill was deemed not to be good enough to get him a World Cup ticket.
Mtawarira may not have the mobility of old‚ but still excels in his core scrumming job and defends well when asked of him.
With Steven Kitshoff the next quality loose-head prop coming off the conveyor belt while Lizo Gqoboka and Ox Nche wait in the wings‚ the Boks' front-row stocks are in a good place.
“It's awesome to have good front rowers coming through in South Africa‚" he said.
"We're very healthy in that regard and having someone like Kitzy coming through is good.
"There's never animosity. It's always about giving the best for the team.
"It's never about selfish ambitions. It's about us becoming the best front row combination in the world.”