During a spectacular career spent scrumming with rugby giants packed in behind him, Beast Mtawarira remembers relying on the support of Annelee Murray, and the most-capped prop in SA Rugby history pays tribute to the Springboks’ beloved public relations manager in her book, ‘The First Lady of Springbok rugby’.
“Annelee was an integral part of the Springbok team for many years and I was fortunate that my Test career coincided with the last decade or so of her term.
“She was the heartbeat of the team and a mother figure to the Springbok players and their families. Like a mother, she was nurturing and caring and sometimes a hard taskmaster when the need arose, especially to the players (LOL!).
“Annelee, you set the tone in terms of professionalism, especially when it came to doing commercial activities for the players. You looked out for us and made sure that we were treated well when we did our appearances under the Springbok banner.
“One of the many memories I have of Annelee was when we were at a shoot for one of the Springbok sponsors, which happened to have a very demanding producer who deliberately intended to prolong the whole shoot for no reason. Annelee stood up to him and told him he would only have the players for a specified amount of time and if he didn’t abide by that, we would walk off set.
“This was one of the big reasons why I loved Annelee so much, she was always on the players’ side and made sure we were protected and not exploited.
“She was also a shoulder to lean on during hard times. In 2017, when things were getting so tough in the Bok environment with all the losses, I remember chatting to her for advice. She gave me a boost in confidence and belief, which wasn’t easy at that point in time.
“I dubbed her ‘the fixer’ because one could always count on Annelee to make a plan, from hustling for breakfast vouchers for families at the World Cup to booking visa appointments and getting seats on flights for players’ families.
“Her love for the players’ families is what made the whole Springbok experience worthwhile. On every game day, whether in South Africa or overseas, she would make sure the families were well taken care of, from getting picked up at the airport to getting rooms at the team hotel. This put the players at ease and allowed us to just focus on playing well for the Springboks.
“My wife and kids always speak about Annelee and remember her for her beautiful smile and ever-accommodating nature.
“Thank you, AL, for all the special memories and for going above and beyond the call of duty.
“I will certainly miss you and the Springbok environment.”