“It’s been an amazing ride,” said Tendai Mtawarira, who will set a new SA record for most caps in Super Rugby on Friday. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

mHaving arrived in Durban as a No 8, Tendai Mtawarira was hoping to become a Springbok loose forward.

He would eventually represent his adopted country for the first time in 2008, but it was in the front row.

Now 33, ‘Beast’ has played in 107 Test matches, and will take part in his third Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

He is still some way behind the most-capped Bok, Victor Matfield (127), but on Friday night, Mtawarira will claim the South African record in Super Rugby against the Lions at Ellis Park.

The former Zimbabwean will play in his 157th match for his beloved Sharks, surpassing Adriaan Strauss.

He made his Super Rugby debut against the Waratahs in Durban in 2007.

“I can still remember my first game,” Mtawarira told the Sharks website. “It was against the Waratahs in 2007 in the Super 14.

“I was picked by our coach Dick Muir on the bench, and came on with 20 minutes remaining. What was memorable about that game was that we won it.

“We went on to have an amazing season and play in the final. Sadly, we lost to the Bulls at Kings Park, but it was a great year.”

Mtawarira has seldom been injured, with only a heart ailment seeing miss a few Bok Tests.

He is still going strong, and even though he might head overseas after the World Cup, he is grateful for being able to wear the No 1 jersey at the Sharks for so many years.

“I never thought about the record (157 games), it’s actually mindboggling to realise I’ve played so many games. I never thought about achieving milestones in my career, I was always committed to just improving all the time,” Mtawarira said.

“Every opportunity I got to put on the jersey was an opportunity to play my heart out. I’ve always focused on enjoying every single game and every moment that I got to play this wonderful game.

“Before I knew it, I’d played 50 games, then 100, and now 157 on Friday.

“I’m grateful to the Lord for looking out for me and I’ve been very fortunate on the injury front. I haven’t had many bad injuries over the course of my career.

“It’s been an amazing ride. I’ve had great mentors – coaches and teammates – who have really pushed me. They inspired me to be better, to work hard and never rest on my laurels.”

One of the most memorable moments for the front-ranker in a Sharks jersey was when he lifted Anton Bresler high into the air at a kickoff against the Stormers in 2012.

But it’s a Super Rugby title that he is still hunting, and that journey continues against the Lions on Friday.

The Sharks are smarting from last week’s narrow defeat to the Bulls.

“For me, definitely the team comes first and we know what we need to do. We played really well against the Bulls, but the only thing we didn’t do was winning the game,” Mtawarira said.

“We’re hungry to get a good victory, so we’re focusing on this game, and the challenge it brings.”

@ashfakmohamed


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