Cape Town - The big Springbok cleanout has left Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira as the most experienced player in Allister Coetzee's 31-man squad for three Tests against Ireland this month.
With Bryan Habana unavailable, Schalk Burger injured, Bismarck du Plessis not selected and Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Dreez all retired, Mtawarira's 75 Springbok caps are the most in the current suad.
JP Pietersen is second with 66 while captain Adriaan Strauss is third-highest with 54 Tests.
In a new Springbok era, with a new coach and a new captain, Mtawarira has a new role.
Being named in Coetzee's core leadership group is something that the 30-year-old loosehead is taking very seriously.
He is no stranger to leadership having led the Sharks in Super Rugby this season when Pat Lambie was out injured, but 'Beast' is aware of the responsibility that comes with leading on the national stage.
"It’s a massive honour to have been named as part of the
leadership team. It’s a huge responsibility … I have to make sure that I work
very hard and lead not just with my words but with my actions," Mtawarira said.
"I’m not the guy who talks the most. I always want to lead
with my actions and inspire the youngsters by what I do. It’s something that I’m
definitely going to work very hard at."
While there is a natural air of excitment that comes with the new, having some old and wise heads at Newlands on June 11 will also be important for Coetzee in his first game in charge.
Mtawarira will soon have played under three different Springbok coaches - Peter de Villiers, Heyneke Meyer and Coetzee - and he is positive about what he has seen from Coetzee so far this week.
"It’s very exciting. We’re part of a new era. There is a lot
of enthusiasm in the camp and everybody is excited to be a part of this new
journey," said Mtawarira.
"I’ve found him (Coetzee) very relaxed … he’s a relaxed kind of guy in
his approach as well. The way he thinks I think is pretty different from
"He really wants us to get back to what we love about rugby … the enjoyment factor
and really getting on the field and expressing ourselves."
The Boks take on Ireland in three Test matches this month in Cape Town (June 11), Johannesburg (June 18) and Port Elizabeth (June 25).