JOHANNESBURG – The cries of “Beeeeeast!” will ring out even louder than usual when Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira becomes only the eighth prop in rugby history to reach the magical 100 Test mark, against England in Bloemfontein tomorrow.
The Zimbabwe-born loosehead prop will also become SA’s first prop to hit the 100 mark and the sixth Bok to reach the milestone. The others are Victor Matfield (127 caps), Bryan Habana (124), John Smit (111), Jean de Villiers (109) and Percy Montgomery (102).
The elite group of international prop forwards who have played 100 Tests include Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones (both Wales and British and Irish Lions), Jason Leonard (England and British and Irish Lions), John Hayes (Ireland and British and Irish Lions), Martin Castrogiovanni and Andrea Lo Cicero (both Italy) and Tony Woodcock (New Zealand).
This week Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus paid tribute to the 32-year-old who made his Test debut in 2008, saying: “How many people can say they played 100 Tests for their country? I played 39 Tests... 100 is phenomenal. He should be proud of himself, and we should all be, too.”
Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said Mtawarira was the true professional: “He takes care of his body, he works hard, he’s prepared to learn and he’s able to ride out the ups and downs of being a professional sportsman.”
Mtawarira has been credited with helping several youngsters who’ve come through the Bok front row ranks reach their full potential, like hooker Malcolm Marx, props Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Trevor Nyakane, Thomas du Toit and Frans Malherbe.
“It’s an amazing achievement getting to the 100,” said Malherbe. “I’m so proud and honoured to be his tighthead prop this weekend. He was there when I made my debut and he’s there now.”
Erasmus said he hoped the emotion of getting to 100 caps would help motivate Mtawarira and his teammates tomorrow.
“It’s impossible to keep emotion away. It’s there, it’s reality, but the guys have to be able to handle it and still put the effort out there; that is the secret, the big trick.”
The Boks lead the three-Test series 1-0 after winning 42-39 in Joburg last Saturday.@jacq_west