A Beautiful Beast, a Warlike Warrior

Robson Sharuko and Adolphus Chinomwe
WHEN it was all over, the triumphant Beast looked for his kids, brought them onto the field and left them to enjoy the glory of the royalty that comes with being World Champions. For a man, whose destructive power in the scrum in 44 minutes of mind-blowing intensity, and supremacy, had laid the foundation for this Springboks’ 32-12 triumph over England in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan, this was a lovely display of his other softer side.

This mellow and loving family man who, away from the bruising battles of the rugby field, where he features in the defining contests that separate men from the boys, is as gentle as they come.

They must have taught him well when he was growing up in Harare.

About 13 000kms away from Yokohama, at a Sports Club in Harare, the tears had long started streaming down the cheeks of a man who was nervously following the action from the capital.

His father Felix.

A cold beer in his hand, a number of his friends for company, a Springboks replica jersey with his proud name and son’s number one jersey printed on its back, a dream having finally come true.

Three generations of the Mtawariras — the father, the son and the grandchildren — all soaking in their family’s finest hour, separated by distance, location and seven time zones, but united by the power of glory.

A humble family from Chimbumu in Guruve now catapulted — thanks to the exploits of their Beast — onto the biggest stage of them all by the stunning success story scripted by this thoroughbred sports star.

The one who went to Churchill High School in Harare, transferred to Peterhouse College in Marondera, ended up at the Shark tank in Durban, now on top of the world. Even Prince Harry, also with a beer in his hand, couldn’t resist giving him a congratulatory pat in the Springboks dressing room, as British royalty graciously conceded England’s comprehensive defeat, in this Rugby World Cup final.

“I can’t think of a nation that needs it more than you guys right now,” the Prince said.

There is something about sport that just provides tales that inspire the world, cheer its spirits battered by war, conflict, natural disasters and the endless political battles.

Like how a boy from Harare who, inspired by his dreams to one day conquer the world, went down the other side of the Limpopo, smashed a number of hurdles erected in his path and one night in Tokyo, saw it all come together.

A 13-year pilgrimage in search for greatness, which was temporarily derailed nine years ago by those who felt he wasn’t qualified to play for the Boks, culminating in this Mother of all Success stories.

A spiritual and emotional journey of both defiance and excellence finally being rewarded with the ultimate prize deep in the Land of the Rising Sun.

At the age of 34, when some had claimed his athletic prowess had started to fade, he delivered a master-class, in the game that matters the most, at the stage where immortals are knighted.

Now, more than dozen years after the Beast left home, convinced he would transform himself into a professional rugby player, Felix and his family were now celebrating their finest hour.

Unlike Earl Woods, falling into the arms of his son Tiger on the 72nd hole after his record-breaking and defining Masters success story of April 13, 1997, Felix wasn’t at the Yokohama Stadium on Saturday as his son, Tendai, was crowned World Champion.

Instead, he was at Alex Sports Club in Harare, where he is a member, and plays tennis, and where he regularly watches all his son’s matches live on television in the company of a number of his friends.

You can call them The Beast Army.

They include tennis coach, Shepherd Manyumbu, transporter Cosmas Nyachiya, unavailable on Saturday because he was competing in the Tiger fishing contest in Kariba, and a number of the club’s patrons.

Ten years ago, they watched the Beast, from the same sports club, announce his arrival on the big stage, with a destruction of Phil Vickery of the British Lions during their tour of South Africa.

A decade later, they watched him again win the World Cup.

“Struggling for words, just really grateful, 12 years of hard work finally paying off,” the Beast told his 46,7 thousand followers on Twitter.

“Thank you Lord, thank you South Africa.”

Ironically, in the beginning, his father Felix doubted he could make it in this sport whose roughness is an ironic expression of its beauty and, by his confession, the Beast played football.

Then, something changed.

“All I thought about was being a Springbok,” he told the British Guardian newspaper in the countdown to the final.

“It was all I dreamed of. My dad thought I was making the wrong move.

“He told me if I went down to South Africa, I would be facing giants who were probably going to crush me.

“He didn’t really believe in my ability so, I saw it as a challenge. I told myself, “I’m going to prove you wrong.”

And, that’s exactly what he has done — 117 Test caps, the third most appearance by a Bok at this level is the stuff of legends.

To cap it all, a World Cup triumph when many expected his powers to be waning and seeing him slipping into retirement.

That’s why his father was a proud man on Saturday.

“Sooner or later, because if the confidence they would be showing in what they want to do, you also end up believing in what they want to do,” Felix told The Herald.

“So, as family, we so proud of him and we are so happy he has achieved his dreams.

“I think I’m gonna take his mother somewhere where we can, you know, enjoy, I think we gonna go out and just enjoy with a couple of friends.”

But, how does it feel to be a father of a World Champion?

“Personally, it’s great, it’s one of those days when you say, when we raise these children, we focus mainly on education.

“And, you say to yourself I think we now realise we gave him a gift that he was able to utilise and, as far as we are concerned, as a family, we are (happy that) we are also now on the world map.

“And I think it means quite a lot for Africa as well because of what they have achieved since everyone wants to be at the world stage.”

Felix, the man who gave the world rugby’s ultimate Beast, is now walking with a spring in his step, and deservedly so.

Because, no matter what happens from now onwards, no one will ever forget that, from the land of the Warriors, came a Beast that conquered the world.

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