CAPE TOWN – It’s a bout for the ages: Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira versus Taniela ‘Tongan Thor’ Tupou.
In fact, Tupou (135kg) has an 18kg advantage over Mtawarira (117kg).
But the South African veteran of 105 Test matches will have extra motivation to drill his direct opponent backwards in Saturday’s clash between the Springboks and Wallabies at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The 33-year-old Mtawarira may still be smarting from one of the scrums in their last encounter at the Suncorp Stadium, where Tupou used a trademark Aussie “trick” in dropping his shoulder, but the referee penalised the Bok loosehead.
Mtawarira got his revenge a few scrums later when he shoved Tupou back so hard that the Wallaby tighthead had to receive medical treatment as the Aussie scrum disintegrated.
So, it’s shaping up to be another cracking showdown between the two big men in what will be Tupou’s first Test start.
Oh, and here’s another reason for Mtawarira to “unleash the Beast” tomorrow – Tupou wasn’t quite sure about how to pronounce his name when he spoke to Australian media this week.
“Their number one, what’s his name, the Beast, he’s one of the best, and it’s going to be a big challenge going up against him again,” Tupou said.
The 22-year-old added in a video on the official Wallaby website rugby.com.au: “He (Mtawarira in Brisbane) came on, and I was on already. And he was just speaking on his own, and I could see he was really pumped up for the scrum!
“I didn’t know what to expect from him because I just know he is a good front-rower. He is really good, so I needed to be ‘on’, every scrum-time.”
Mtawarira is a man of few words, as he likes to do his talking on the field. And that’s something he would want to prove to coach Rassie Erasmus as well, with Steven Kitshoff wearing “his” No 1 jersey in the 36-34 victory over the All Blacks in Wellington.
Erasmus said at the team announcement on Thursday that Mtawarira’s selection this week was a “straight swop”, and that it might be the other way around next Saturday for the All Black Test in Pretoria.
Mtawarira, though, would dearly like to face the world champions at Loftus Versfeld, so he would want to produce a big performance on Saturday.
So, good luck, Taniela Tupou…