Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has called on the Springbok forward pack to respond to the occasion when Beast Mtawarira runs out for his 100th Test cap, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Bloemfontein.
On Monday, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus made no secret of the fact that Mtawarira – fitness permitting – will be selected to reach this milestone mark in Saturday’s second Test against England.
It will be a special occasion for the highly popular and world-revered loosehead prop, while it should serve as another unifying moment for South African sport as Mtawarira becomes the first black African to reach the triple-figure mark.
Quite simply, it’s an impossible task to find someone who has anything but the highest of praise to offer up when discussing both the personal and professional nature of the soft-spoken front-rower, who is a gentle giant off the field, but a beast on it.
Proudfoot – who has worked closely with Mtawarira at Bok level over the past three years – said the 32-year-old should be celebrated for reaching this point in his career through various ups and downs.
‘When the moment comes, it will be a fantastic achievement for a very good man… the stats will show that he has started a large majority of his 99 Tests up to this point . It’s an incredible achievement, especially when you consider his longevity in a really tough position where there’s a lot of competition.
‘This [milestone] will be something to savour, and I’d like to see the pack respond to that and make it a special occasion. We want to cherish this moment for him and honour it accordingly.’
When asked what has set Mtawarira apart and helped him reach this point, Proudfoot quite simply identified the prop’s unerring professionalism.
‘Beast takes care of his body, he works hard and does the extras. He’s a professional. Beast also has a very good physique and confidence in his abilities, but he’s also been prepared to learn and ride out the ups and downs. He takes it on the chin when he’s been beaten, but he’s humble enough to understand the process and how to come back stronger, and that’s what you want from a sportsman.’
Although Mtawarira is well known for his quietly-spoken nature, Proudfoot suggested this belied the influence he had as a key member of the team.
‘He has a big voice in the pack, and that’s so important to us … combinations are crucial in the front row, and with the Sharks and Boks, you can see what he achieved alongside Jannie and Bismarck [du Plessis].
‘More recently, he’s been in an environment with young front-rowers such as Thomas [du Toit] and Wilco [Louw], and even Malcolm Marx last year, and his presence and the stability he provides has aided their development. Beast is a big cornerstone of what this team is about.’
IN OUR LATEST ISSUE: Beast on what the milestone means to him
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images