JOHANNESBURG – Springbok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot has joined the chorus of voices singing the praises of veteran Bok prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira who is in line to make his 100th Test appearance against England here on Saturday.
Proudfoot, who is in his third year as Bok forwards coach, said Mtawarira’s professionalism was the reason why he had been able to get into the Bok team 10 years ago and stay there, making the No 1 jersey his own.
“He’s a professional, he takes care of his body, he works hard, he’s got a very good physique, and he takes care of it,” said Proudfoot in summing up the Zimbabwe-born loosehead prop.
He continued: “He’s humble, he’s prepared to learn, he’s been able to ride out the ups and downs during his career, and he takes on the chin when he has been beaten. Loosehead prop is a position where you win one (scrum) and you lose one.
“Beast is a confident player, but he’s also humble.”
If picked for Saturday’s second Test against England here, which head coach Rassie Erasmus said he would be, the 32-year-old will join an exclusive club of South Africans to have reached 100 Tests, which includes Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery.
Bok boss Erasmus said it was almost unbelievable to think that someone could play 100 Test matches for their country.
“It’s great (for Beast) ... how many people can say they achieved that? I played 39 Tests and it felt a lot ... 100 is phenomenal. To think he started out at lock, then flank and to consolidate at prop, and to get to 100. He should be proud of himself and we can be too.”
Mtawarira made his debut in 2008 and has been part of the Bok squad every year since.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for a very good man,” continued Proudfoot. “I would love to see the statistics of how many games he’s started and how many he’s come off the bench ... I know a high percentage of the games were starts. It’s incredible; his longevity, with all the competition around and the demands of the position ... it’s something to savour.
“I would now like to see our pack respond (this weekend), to make it a special one for him,” said the Bok forwards coach.
The media-shy and softly-spoken Mtawarira has chosen to not speak to the media this week, insisting he would prefer to focus on the Test on Saturday. But Proudfoot said the Sharks man was hardly a withdrawn figure in the Bok pack.
“Beast is a big voice in the pack, that is why he is so important to us,” said Proudfoot.
“Just look at the Sharks and what he has meant for a guy like Thomas du Toit, who is now starting at tighthead prop. A front row is always about the combination, and in our environment here (at the Boks) we’ve had some young guys, like Malcolm Marx, Wilco Louw, coming through last year, and he gave solidity to the pack. “Beast is a big cornerstone of what this team is about.”
Mtawarira is likely to have hooker Bongi Mbonambi next to him this Saturday, but there could be a new man wearing the No 3 on his back.
Last weekend’s first choice tighthead, Louw, could sit out to make way for Du Toit or Erasmus could surprise by naming Frans Malherbe in the starting team.
The Boks will enjoy a rest day from training today, with the coach scheduled to name his team tomorrow.