In the final instalment of an article series from the SA Rugby magazine team, CRAIG LEWIS reflects on Beast Mtawarira’s demolition of Phil Vickery in the first Test of the 2009 series against the British & Lions.
Of course, when trying to single out my all-time favourite individual performance, the temptation is to select a flashy backline player’s performance. There are plenty of those after all.
Yet, there is one other standout moment that still resonates above the rest, and it comes from an unlikely source: the scrum.
It was the opening match of a crucial Test series against the Lions in 2009, and it also turned out to be a contest that unequivocally announced the arrival of the one and only Beast Mtawarira.
Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the end of the Test career of his opposite number, Phil Vickery, who found himself popped like a champagne cork almost every time he engaged in a scrum battle with Mtawarira.
At 23 years old, Beast was playing in just his 11th Test. He would go on to play 106 more internationals, culminating in a similarly destructive performance in last year’s World Cup final.
But, back in 2009, watching Mtawarira from the stands of Kings Park was a thing of beauty.
The Durban stadium was packed with a sea of red-shirted Lions supporters, and yet they were collectively silenced as Beast brutally manhandled Vickery until he was ultimately substituted early in the second half to end his suffering.
The one-sided domination also led to one of the all-time great quotes from Vickery a couple of weeks later, when he recalled how the opening Test had gone.
‘You know you have had a bad game when your mum, your missus and your sister all text you to say they still love you,’ Vickery quipped.
For Mtawarira, it was just the start of a long and illustrious Test career. But that individual effort in just his 11th Test will go down as one of his all-time great performances.