Having been compared to a Springbok icon in the first footsteps of his career, rookie prop Ntuthuko Mchunu says he will be out to write his own story when he makes his Test debut against Wales on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Mchunu is one of four debutants named on the bench for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Bloemfontein, as Jacques Nienaber radically overhauled the team that won the first of three Tests in Pretoria.
Mchunu only made his first-class debut for the Sharks in 2021 and caught the eye with a magnificent 50-metre run for a try. Since then, the youngster has been compared to Beast Mtawarira, as the two players transitioned from the back row to loosehead prop early in their careers.
However, when asked about the comparison by reporters on Wednesday, Mchunu said that while he was honoured to be compared to a Bok centurion, he wants to make his own name in the game and it will all start on Saturday.
“First of all, it’s a massive thing being called Beast 2.0, as people have been saying. But I just want to create my own legacy,” said Mchunu. “He is someone who set the bar high for us. I want to do it my way, but I am very grateful for what people are calling me.
“He has been a great mentor. More in terms of off-the-field stuff and coming into the system similarly to how he came into the system. He has been great, from a mental point of view. Just understanding that there is someone out there who has done this all before and who I can turn to if there is something that I need.”
Mchnu admitted that he expected to be waiting a bit longer for his first Springbok call-up, especially as he made the often challenging switch to the front row from the loose trio.
“Emotionally, it has been too good. It has been a big thing for my family. I have just taken it one day at a time, focusing on each day and each detail. I will only really let the emotion out on Saturday. For now, I am making sure I sharpen up and that I am ready to go.
“This is something I had in my goals. But I didn’t think that, with the switch from loose forward, it would come this soon.”
Much has been made over the way that Wales managed to rattle the Springboks in the first Test, especially as the visitors nullified the Bok maul as they took a 15-point lead into the break.
Mchunu says he is expecting a similar effort from the Welsh pack at Free State Stadium, but added that the Boks would be up for the challenge.
“It’s a Test match. Every team that plays against the Springboks fronts up and takes their game up a level. From our side, I’ve personally had a sit-down with the coaches and this is something we have been preparing for over the past four weeks. They are definitely going to front up, but we will be ready for it.”
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