Tendai Nihal ‘Beast’ Mtawarira (born 1 August 1985 in Harare, Zimbabwe) is a Zimbabwean-born South African rugby union player who currently plays for the Sharks in the Super Rugby competition. Mtawarira, a prop, is fondly known by friends and fans as “The Beast”. Roars of “Beast” are shouted by spectators and fans of the Sharks team whenever Mtawarira attains possession of the ball or makes a big tackle. Mtawarira was selected as part of the South African National Rugby Union team and made his debut playing against Wales in a test match on 14 June 2008. The following week, on 21 June 2008, Mtawarira scored a try against Italy as well as winning the ‘Man of the Match’ award. He attended Churchill School in Harare before moving to Peterhouse Boys’ School in Marondera both in Zimbabwe, along with Brian Mujati, who also represented the Springboks. Notably, despite living in South Africa and representing the country internationally, Mtawarira was a Zimbabwean national until late June 2010; he qualified for South Africa by three years’ residency, as allowed under International Rugby Board rules.
Mtawarira attended Churchill School in Harare for 5 years before being given a full scholarship to Peterhouse Boys’ School, an independent school in Mashonaland East. At the age of 15, while at Churchill, he was spotted by legendary Zimbabwean Coach Joey Muwadzuri who invited him to join the Under 19 side at the National Schools Festival. Later that year coach Joey invited him to be part of Cats and Dogs Rugby Academy Team that won the National Seniors 7’s tournament. He played with stars Dan Hondo, Pete Benade, Tonderai “Kawaza” Chavhanga, among others. Despite his young age he used his strength and will to learn to tread with the senior boys.
After a fantastic 2008 Super 14 season with the Sharks it was apparent that he had fantastic potential and his speed would be beneficial with the new rules (ELV’s).
He was then selected in the Springbok squad and at first received limited game time. Later on he had the opportunity to be a reserve during the test against the Wallabies in Perth. Once he came on, his impact was significant, he had two long distance runs with the ball. He went on to be a part of the starting lineup for all the subsequent Tri-nations tests.
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS TOUR
The highlight of Mtawarira’s career to date came in the first test of the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2009. Scrumming against Phil Vickery, Mtawarira dominated his more experienced opponent, leading to Vickery being substituted after 45 minutes, and a man-of-the-match award for Mtawarira. However, he conceded several penalties in the second test when playing opposite Welsh prop Adam Jones. Similarly, in the third test, Mtawarira was largely ineffectual in the scrum, with the returning Vickery, and replacement John Hayes, subduing him up front.
CITIZENSHIP CONTROVERSY AND RESOLUTION
Although Mtawarira was fully eligible to play for South Africa under IRB rules, his Zimbabwean nationality was a sticking point in 2009 and 2010. South Africa has a policy of only allowing its nationals to represent the country, although it has been somewhat flexible; the South African Rugby Union (SARU) officially cleared him to play with the Boks in the November 2009 Tests, after receiving clearance from the country’s sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile.
More recently, his citizenship was a minor political issue in the country. In January 2010, Buthana Komphela, an ANC member of the National Assembly and chair of its sports committee, publicly threatened to charge the SARU with “illegally” fielding Mtawarira and have him deported to Zimbabwe. Shortly after the threat, Mtawarira told the Sunday Independent,
Later in the year, the South African government reaffirmed its policy that only South African nationals would be allowed to represent the country in international competition, which made Mtawarira unavailable for selection to the Springboks in the June Tests; by that time, his application for South African citizenship had been tied up in red tape. On 25 June 2010, the SARU announced that Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had granted Mtawarira’s request for South African citizenship. The immediate effect was to make him eligible for selection in the 2010 Tri Nations.