BLOEMFONTEIN - It has taken just two Test wins to ensure the Springboks are the feel-good story of South African sport. And Bok captain Siya Kolisi and stalwart prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira are two of the prominent figures in the story.
Having come from behind twice on successive Saturdays in the last fortnight to beat England and win the three-Test series - before the final game in Cape Town this weekend - Rassie Erasmus’s team are the talk of the town. Loose forward Kolisi is being hailed as “captain fantastic”, while on Saturday, veteran prop "Beast" won his 100th cap for the Boks.
Their 23-12 win against Eddie Jones’s England played out in front of a sold-out crowd of 42000 fans - something that hasn’t happened in the Free State capital for some time. “All the coach has wanted from us is effort,” said a beaming Kolisi after his side’s series-clinching win. “As long as we keep fighting, all is good. It’s a great feeling knowing the series is won.”
Mtawarira said the week’s build-up to his 100th game for the Boks was something special. “The whole week was unbelievable. My teammates made it so special, it was a great night, and I’m so thankful.”
The 32-year-old Zimbabwe-born prop was somewhat taken aback by a phone call before the game from President Cyril Ramaphosa. “It was a big surprise He congratulated me on my 100th Test cap and said I was an inspiration to South Africa. It was very encouraging and overwhelming. It’s crazy that he knows about it (the 100th Test).”
The Boks will head to Cape Town for the final Test a winning and transformed team, and in a good space. England, on the other hand, have now lost six matches in a row, five of those Tests, and coach Jones’s position is in jeopardy, with a little over a year to the Rugby World Cup. Their team has also had to deal with bouts of ill-discipline by some players who apparently had unsavoury verbal exchanges with fans in Bloemfontein, while their scrumhalf Ben Youngs failed to complete a TV interview after the match.