Green and gold flows in Beast's blood

Springbok prop forward Tendai Mtawarira is at the centre of a war of words between the SA Rugby Union and the Sports Ministry over his eligibility to represent the country, but the Beast has given his heart and soul to his adopted country.

"I am a South African at heart," he says. "I love this country. It has become my home. It is everything to me."

Mtawarira, 25, has been living in Durban for six years since accepting a bursary from the Sharks Academy. He was spotted when his Zimbabwean school, Peterhouse, toured KZN.

"Wearing the green and gold of the Springboks is a huge honour for me," he says.

"That jersey is part of me. The green and gold flows in my blood. I feel just as much pride as any other guy in the team."

Mtawarira and his Zimbabwean-born girlfriend, Kuziva, are to marry later this year and will set up home in Durban.

"We would not think of living anywhere else. We love everything about Durban, the weather, the people, the beach and, of course, The Sharks. We want to grow as a family here."

He is grateful for the opportunities that rugby has given him.

"I want to put my body on the line for South Africa when I play," he says. "I hold nothing back. I give it my all. This country has been amazing to me and that makes me want to work harder.

"So many people have embraced me and it is humbling to know that they are behind me, supporting me all the way."

They give hearty voice to their support, of course, with the "BEEEAST" refrain each time he gets the ball.

And that famous roar is heard in stadiums around the world, not just at Absa Stadium.

"When they shout my name I get goosebumps," he says. "The adrenalin kicks in and I try that extra bit harder to get the arms and legs pumping. It gives me a great boost."

His younger brother, Ray, is now also at the Sharks Academy.

He is a promising flanker, as tall as his brother, but not as broad. Mtawarira is 1.87m tall and weighs 117kg, with a low body fat percentage.

The Beast in full cry is a fearsome sight, strikingly at odds with his peaceful, almost diffident, demeanour off the pitch.

"I get asked about this a lot," he says with a laugh.

"When I cross the white line on to the field I switch on for battle, and after the final whistle I can switch off just as easily. It really is a 'switch' thing."

His off-field serenity is thanks to his Christian faith, he says.

"The good Lord put me on this Earth for a reason. He has a great plan for my future. I am at peace and will always be an ambassador for Jesus Christ."

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