Beast Mtawarira chats to Sport24
Cape Town - In an exclusive
interview, iconic Sharks and Springbok prop BEAST MTAWARIRA
talks about Curwin Bosch’s bright future, his
admiration for Serena Williams and not putting Kiwi teams on a pedestal.
Sport24 asked: Have you embraced a leadership role as
a senior Sharks player?
Beast Mtawarira: I still
see myself as being fairly young in terms of age but, as far as experience is
concerned, I’m now into my 11th season of Super Rugby with the
Sharks. It’s a great privilege to be one of the leaders in the side. I try to
pave the way for the younger players and show them what it takes to play the
game at the highest level. The lessons I pass on to the younger crop are about
being disciplined, headstrong and making sure that you don’t get overwhelmed by
the moment. Many of the younger players in our team are only playing in their
first or second season of Super Rugby. As such, they can get a bit overwhelmed
by the challenge of those we are facing at times. However, what they lack in
experience they make up for with energy and enthusiasm. I have told my
team-mates that the key is to remain calm and trust in the systems that we have been
training this whole season. It’s a great honour to be part of the environment
we have cultivated at the Sharks. Coach Robert (du Preez) has brought back the true
Sharks culture – we have traditionally played an exciting brand of rugby - and
we have rediscovered our identity, which we lacked in the last couple of years.
As a former Sharks players himself, Robert knows exactly what is needed to be
part of the Sharks culture. He has really been driving it from the off-season
and everybody wants to contribute to the brand and ensure that we establish
ourselves as a force in the rugby world. Our coach has brought back the
mentality of getting the ball, working through the phases and enjoying our
rugby. As rugby players growing up, we always dreamed of running with the ball
and showing off our skills. I feel that Robert has really brought the
excitement and enjoyment factor back to Durban. And with an emphasis on a ball-in-hand
game comes an increased amount of fitness work. We were really put through our
paces during the pre-season to ensure that we are fit enough to play at a high
level of intensity for 80 minutes. It’s something that we want to keep
improving as the season progresses.
Sport24 asked: The Sharks have won five from eight
matches this term. Your assessment?
Beast Mtawarira: For us, it’s
definitely not good enough and we have certainly not yet reached our full
potential. As a team collective, it’s about ensuring that we stay grounded and
constantly improve as a unit. We have already set ourselves goals for the next
couple of weeks and our aim is to execute the plan. Coach Rob has divided our Super
Rugby campaign into different phases and we are now in the midst of the third phase
of the competition, so we really need to step up a gear. Every player in their
position needs to take accountability and improve. I believe even one percent
improvements from each player can really take us further on into the
competition because it will have a cumulative effect. You have to ensure that
you perform and give it your all every time you get to pull on the Sharks
jumper. It’s part of the culture we have created, and our intention each and
every week is to play to the ultimate of our abilities and make our loyal
supporter base proud. Moreover, internal competition always brings out the best
in the players. Owing to the stiff competition for places at the Sharks, as
players we are fully aware that we can’t relax and take our opportunities for
Sport24 asked: Are the New Zealand franchises the
front-runners after nine rounds?
Beast Mtawarira: I believe
it’s important not to put the New Zealand teams on a pedestal because we are
all fighting to be the best. South African sides have been producing the goods
this season and, as such, I wouldn’t call the New Zealand sides the best thus
far. The fact of the matter is that everyone has stepped up their game this
term and I believe that our local sides have really been playing well. The SA
sides are hungry to prove a point and are working hard to get back on top. I
certainly have respect for the New Zealand teams, however, the toughest matches
I have been involved in or watched this season have been South African derbies.
The Lions and Stormers have been performing well this season and facing them
will probably prove our toughest challenges.
Sport24 asked: How impressed have you been with boy
wonder Curwin Bosch?
Beast Mtawarira: I heard that former Springbok coach Peter de
Villiers said that “Curwin will bring South African rugby fans so much joy over
the next decade.” I certainly agree with those sentiments. Curwin is an
exciting youngster. The 19-year-old is versatile - he can play at both flyhalf
and fullback and has the X-factor. I believe he is going to continue to grow
and, as we have seen already, he has improved significantly from last season.
He is definitely going to be playing for the Springboks soon and contributing
to the success of South African rugby. He boasts so much maturity for someone
who is still only a teenager. I enjoy playing with him and I can’t wait to see
what his future holds.
Sport24 asked: Which black front rowers have left you
with a lasting impression?
Beast Mtawarira: I have
been really impressed with Ox Nche from the Cheetahs and Lizo Gqoboka of the
Bulls. Lizo is one of the most talented front rankers I have ever met. He is also
a great guy off the field and has his feet firmly on the ground. Meanwhile, Ox was
in strong form in the last Currie Cup campaign and he has continued in that
vein in Super Rugby this season. I believe both props are only going to get
better with time. I see the pair being stalwarts in the Springbok squad in
years to come.
Sport24 asked: Will you head abroad once your
tripartite agreement expires?
Beast Mtawarira: First and
foremost, I’m signed with the Sharks and Springboks until 2019. I am thoroughly
enjoying playing for the Sharks and my roots are firmly planted in South Africa
for the foreseeable future. I want to contribute to the Sharks and Springboks
in order for them to be on top again, and I would love to be part of a winning
a Rugby World Cup having missed out on the trophy twice. I would like to play
in Durban for as long as possible because I enjoy the environment and the
company of my team-mates. However, towards the latter stage of my professional
playing career, I would love to go and have an experience up north. France is
an attractive place for my playing career and my young family. It would be my
destination of choice. I feel that a
stint in France would allow me to develop further as a front ranker. I would get
to play against some of the world's toughest front rowers in Europe, which would
prove a great experience. I would also get to learn much more about the game in
foreign conditions and I’ve seen how players go there and come back better. Off
the field, my family and I would have the chance to travel. However, for at
least the next three years, my focus is on contributing to the success of SA
rugby both provincially and nationally.
Sport24 asked: Three dream celebrity guests over for
dinner. Who would you invite?
Beast Mtawarira: The first
dinner guest I would invite would be LeBron James. I am a big fan of the
Cleveland Cavaliers and he is my favourite basketball player of all time. Next
to crack the nod would be Serena Williams. I think Serena is a beast on the
tennis court and she stands for everything that I want to be as an athlete. Her
determination and will to win really resonates with me. My third guest would be
American Football star Tom Brady. The 39-year-old has achieved so much in the
NFL and is arguably the best quarterback of all time. You don’t get too many
NFL players who are humble, but Brady has shown great humility despite having
achieved so much in his career. Meeting him would be the best thing ever. On
the menu would be steak and pap accompanied by chakalaka to give my American
guests a taste of Africa. And the late Biggie Smalls’ rap would be the
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