Johannesburg — You’d expect Springbok and Sharks legend Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira to unfurl his massive mit of a hand and count on his fingers all the players from his former union that have impressed him this season; and that was certainly the case on Thursday as he named a handful of individuals.
But there is one player not from the Durban-based side that received high-praise from the giant luminary, and it comes as no surprise that it is Vincent Tshituka.
Speaking at the launch of the second edition of the Carling Champions Cup, the man who played for the Boks 117 times and represented the Sharks at SuperRugby level for another 159 caps, spoke glowingly of the talented Lions loose-forward, among others.
"There are some Sharks players that have really put their hands up,” said Beast, “guys like Aphelele Fassi. Makazole Mapimpi has just been going from strength-to-strength. Ox (Nche) is really playing well.
“A guy that has actually impressed me from another team is Vincent Tshituka. I think he is a phenomenal rugby player and I hope he is able to get his citizenship and represent South Africa, because I think he is a Springbok in all but writing.”
The 24-year-old Tshituka, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has had another stormer of a season for the Joburg-based outfit; and has been on the lips of pundits and supporters alike, all backing him for inclusion in the Bok setup. Tshituka currently remains ineligible, however, but all recent reports indicate that both he and his younger brother are in the process of obtaining their SA citizenship.
There have also been heavily circulated rumours that the Sharks are chasing the signature of the elder Tshituka as they continue their evolution down in the KZN.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are currently fighting battles on two fronts as they compete in the United Rugby Champions (URC) and Currie Cup.
They have already secured a play-off berth in the URC, although it remains to be seen where they will finish in the Top 8; while European Champions Cup action also awaits them next season. In the domestic competition, they find themselves third in the standings with a match against the Pumas on Friday afternoon loading.
Beast, who plays a mentorship role within the Sharks and also sits on the board of that organisation, believes firmly that his former team has a shot at the URC title, aided by the return of another superstar in the coming weeks.
“We are going to be in the finals,” said the 36-year-old former prop.
“We have a great squad and having Lukhanyo (Am) coming back from Japan, is going to make a huge difference going into the play-offs. We have got the experience and that is going to come to the fore now as we face some real competition from up North.”
Before that, the Sharks must first clear their next and final assignment in the regular season of the URC, which will decide their ultimate fate in the standings when they face Irish heavyweights Ulster on Friday, May 21 in Belfast.