HARARE – South Africa World Cup-winner Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira has described Sharks loose-forward Tinotenda Mavesere as a “special talent”, but the now retired front-rower would like to see the young Zimbabwean continue his international career with his country of birth rather than take the Springbok route.

The Springboks legend, who is originally from Zimbabwe, made the remarks to reporters after conducting a scrummaging session in Harare on Friday with the country’s Under-20 team. The superbly-gifted young team is firm favourites to win the African title for a third time in a row when the Barthés Trophy is hosted in Harare next week.

25-year-old Mavesere now plays for South African side Sharks, where Mtawarira himself achieved iconic status in his glittering career. Although Mavesere has already been capped internationally by Zimbabwe, he may seek to switch allegiance to South Africa after a stipulated stand-down period.

On Friday, asked if any of the young Zimbabweans he has seen have the potential to follow in his footsteps to also become Springboks, Mtawarira advised Mavesere and others to bear their country’s cause.

“I think I would rather see them play for Zimbabwe than for the Springboks,” replied Mtawarira.

“Tinotenda Mavesere, he’s a special talent. I’m actually his mentor at the Sharks so I spent a lot of time with Tino. He’s got so much promise, obviously I want him to represent the Sables (Zimbabwe’s national team). You know, he loves his home country, he is there at the Sharks right now and he reminds me so much of the journey that I took when I arrived at the Sharks. So I believe he’s got big aspirations, big dreams, and I hope he can achieve them as much as I did.”

Once-upon-a-time: A younger and leaner Tino Mavesere (middle) as an upcoming player for Harare Sports Club, seen here with Tendai Mtawarira and former Zimbabwe captain Daniel Hondo. Both Hondo and Mtawarira have been influential figures in Mavesere’s rise.

Zimbabwe’s Under-20 side has proved too strong in Africa over the past two years. Mtawarira urged on the Young Sables not to lose the hunger as they hunt for a third championship and a stepping stone into professional rugby.

“I think that you should never be settle, you must always be inspired to achieve more,” said Mtawarira.

“I was always driven to go from milestone to milestone, I never settle, I was never content. So my message to them is keep on chasing, keep on working hard every day, listen to your coaches because the best is yet to come. They must aspire to be world champions one day. You know, I’m a true testimony that you can become a world champion no matter where you are from.”

Mtawarira with Zimbabwe’s Under-20 players during a scrummaging session at Harare Sports Club last Friday.

Once again, Mtawarira pledged his support for rugby in his homeland, where he already helps out through his Beast Foundation.

“Schoolboy rugby here in Zim is very strong,” he said. “It’s something I tell my friends in South Africa and across the world that we have some of the best schoolboy rugby out there, you just have to come and witness it. So there is a pipeline of talent and that talent need to be harnessed. We need to have a league for the boys to play then from there they can progress to the national team, higher honours, and go to a World Cup. So the talent just need a little bit of investment from the public and private sector so I want to do my duty. I want to play my part and be an ambassador for Zim rugby and help to drive the investment.”

Returning to Zimbabwe is a joyous occasion for Mtawarira, and he always looks forward to the next visit home.

“It was awesome to be back in Harare, walking the streets and just really remembering where I came from, every time when I come home I always have nostalgia,” Mtawarira said.

“It’s special to be able to spend time nevapfanha (with the young players), to inspire them – promising rugby players that want to achieve so much. Today I was privileged to do that, teaching them scrummaging, tichimbotamba (playing) rugby, tichimbovaratidza (showing them) some of the fundamentals that you need to be a successful athlete. So for me it’s something that I don’t take for granted, today was special and yeah, ndadzoka kumba (I’m back home).”

The 38-year-old record-breaking Bok, the most capped prop in South Africa’s history, also shared a lighter moment regarding his world famous nickname.

“I got the nickname Beast when I was nine years old, ndichiri ku (while at) Prospect primary school in Waterfalls and the nickname stuck with me,” he chuckled.

“My best mate in primary school, a guy called Kuda, gave me that name and it stuck. Till today anongogara achindifonera achiti ndiri kuda ma royalties angu (he’s always phoning me saying I want my royalties) because ndini ndakakupa zita iroro (I’m the one who gave you that name)!”


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