HE is “The Beast” and his beautiful story continues even after calling time on his illustrious playing career spanning over a decade.
Zimbabwe-born former South Africa loose-head prop, Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, was on Monday named in the World Rugby’s Team of the Decade for between 2010 and 2020 to confirm his status as one of the best players World Rugby has ever had.
Mtawarira’s heroics were at the heart of the Springboks’ World Rugby World Cup success story in Yokohama, Japan, last year in which South Africa powered to a 32-12 win over England in the final to claim their third World Cup crown. And on Monday, he made his way to the exclusive Team of the Decade in association with Mastercard as part of the World Rugby Awards Special Edition.
Another Zimbabwe-born former Australia flanker, David Pocock, also made the Team of the Decade.
Pocock was born 32 years ago in Gweru before moving to Australia.
Two other Boks, Bismarck du Plessis and Bryan Habana, also made the cut to reaffirm South Africa’s giants’ status in world rugby.
There was also special recognition for current South Africa national team captain Siya Kolisi and his colleagues for their fund-raising efforts through #StrongerTogether for R32-12 campaign which has raised more than R1 million for hunger alleviation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The awards evening celebrated members of the rugby family who have provided outstanding service during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as players and teams who have starred over the last decade in a virtual show.
Instead of the traditional awards celebrating performances on the pitch in 2020, supporters had the opportunity to vote for their six favourite Players and Tries of the Decade Awards, with the World Rugby Awards’ star-studded panel given the difficult task of selecting two Teams of the Decade.
Du Plessis and Habana were teammates when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 2007, while all three players were members of the team’s 2-1 series win over the 2009 British & Irish Lions.
And to be named in World Rugby’s Team of the Decade was a befitting honour for Mtawarira, whose ball carries led to affectionate chants of “Beast” in stadia around the world.
He was a stand-out performer as the Boks beat England 32-12 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy in Yokohama on November 2 last year, the last of his 117 Tests.
He won a number of scrum penalties on the loose-head side as South Africa dominated the set-piece to lay the platform for their third World Cup title.
Mtawarira retired as the third most capped Bok behind former lock Victor Matfield (127 caps) and wing Habana (124). As well as being the most capped Springbok prop, the Beast is also the fifth most capped prop in the history of the game.
He won his first cap in 2008 and also has the most appearances of any South African in Super Rugby with 159, all for the Durban-based Sharks.
And yesterday the Zimbabwe Rugby Union led in celebrating “The Beast’s” milestone achievement with the association’s chief executive, Sifiso Made, saying the feat is confirmation of the strong development structures within ZRU.
“Yes, this is a milestone not only for Mtawarira, but for Zimbabwe Rugby as well. He is a product of our development structures and we can only walk with a spring in our step after this special award to one of our products,” said Made.
“This is a great achievement in terms of both fame and fortune. But most importantly, it speaks volumes of the amount of talent that Zimbabwe possesses. If we can have someone from Zimbabwe, who was nurtured in the structures we have in Zimbabwe, dazzling the world, then we can never stop dreaming. Besides, the youngsters who we have in the structures will be more than inspired. This is no mean feat.”
Mtawarira, who last year volunteered his services as Destination Zimbabwe Ambassador, has not only received kudos from the local rugby fraternity as the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, who of late have been pressing for synergies between sport and tourism, have chipped in with congratulatory messages.
“Obviously, as the ZTA, we have every reason to be elated by this achievement. Just last year, Mtawarira offered to work for his country as the Destination Zimbabwe Ambassador and for him to achieve this feat at a time like this can be what the doctor has just ordered,” said ZTA spokesperson Godfrey Koti.
“Despite the fact that he is now retired, this achievement has once again brought all the attention on him once again and that can be a platform for us to get noticed since we are inseparable.
“We would like to congratulate Mtawarira for the achievement. This also brings us to the conclusion that we need to put in place proper structures between tourism and sport for we have several points of convergence. This achievement is worth celebrating as a country, we know it has great potential to make Zimbabwe visible.”
Meanwhile, Richie McCaw and Jessy Trémoulière took home 15s Player of the Decade Awards; Portia Woodman and Jerry Tuwai won Sevens Player of the Decade categories; Jamie Heaslip and Portia Woodman tries voted as best of the decade; Two stellar 15s Teams of the Decade selected by the World Rugby Awards panel highlight the best performers on the international stage since 2010; Special edition also featured rugby’s heroes of the pandemic.
Every World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year recipient since 2010 were shortlisted for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Decade, from three-time recipients Dan Carter and McCaw to Emily Scarratt and Jessy Trémoulière.
The same was true for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Decade Awards with nine men and six women shortlisted, from two-time winners Perry Baker and Michaela Blyde to 2019 winners Jerry Tuwai and Ruby Tui.
Past winners of the International Rugby Players (IRP) Try of the Year from 2010 onwards were shortlisted for the International Rugby Players 15s Men’s Try of the Decade, while the women’s shortlist was selected by IRP and put to the public vote.
A total of 394 795 votes were cast by the public across the six categories during the voting window in October with rugby fans eager to have their say on who should claim the prestigious accolades for last decade.
New Zealand’s two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain McCaw was named World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Decade in association with Tudor after seeing off competition from former team-mates Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick and Beauden Barrett as well as Thierry Dusautoir, Johnny Sexton and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
France full-back Jessy Trémoulière added another accolade to her Player of the Year award in 2018 by being voted the World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Decade in association with Tudor ahead of Carla Hohepa, Michaela Staniford, Magali Harvey, Kendra Cocksedge, Sarah Hunter, Portia Woodman and Emily Scarratt.
The first award presented on the night was the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Decade in association with HSBC, which was claimed by Black Ferns Sevens star Portia Woodman. The only player to be named World Rugby Player of the Year in both 15s and sevens, Woodman pipped team-mates Kayla McAlister, Michaela Blyde and Ruby Tui and Australia’s Olympic champions Emilee Cherry and Charlotte Caslick to the accolade.
Fiji’s own Olympic champion Jerry Tuwai was a popular winner of the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Decade in association with HSBC award, seeing off competition from Mikaele Pesamino, Cecil Afrika, Tomasi Cama, Tim Mikkelson, Samisoni Viriviri, Werner Kok, Seabelo Senatla and Perry Baker.
Woodman claimed her second award of the night when her try against USA in the Rugby World Cup 2017 semi-final was named International Rugby Players Women’s 15s Try of the Decade ahead of efforts by Alison Miller, Magali Harvey, Megan York and Danielle Waterman.
Jamie Heaslip’s try for Ireland against Italy in the 2016 Six Nations was voted International Rugby Players Men’s 15s Try of the Decade by fans after seeing off the competition from scores by Chris Ashton, Radike Samo, Bryan Habana, Beauden Barrett, Francois Hougaard, Julian Savea, Joaquín Tuculet, Brodie Retallick and TJ Perenara.
The World Rugby Women’s 15s Team of the Decade in association with Mastercard was selected by the panel that traditionally determines the annual accolade and, after much debate, features eight players from England, six from New Zealand and one from France.
Fourteen of the team have won at least one Rugby World Cup, the exception being number eight Safi N’Diaye who has two bronze medals to her name.
World Rugby Men’s 15s Team of the Decade
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 14 George North (Wales), 13 Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), 12 Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand), 11 Bryan Habana (South Africa), 10 Dan Carter (New Zealand), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland); 1 Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa), 2 Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa), 3 Owen Franks (New Zealand), 4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 6 David Pocock (Australia), 7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand), 8 Sergio Parisse (Italy).
World Rugby Women’s 15s Team of the Decade
15 Danielle Waterman (England), 14 Lydia Thompson (England), 13 Emily Scaratt (England), 12 Kelly Brazier (New Zealand), 11 Portia Woodman (New Zealand), 10 Katy Daley-Mclean (England), 9 Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand); 1 Rochelle Clark (England), 2 Fiao’o Faamausili (New Zealand), 3 Sophie Hemming (England), 4 Eloise Blackwell (New Zealand), 5 Tamara Taylor (England), 6 Linda Itunu (New Zealand), 7 Maggie Alphonsi (England), Safi N’Diaye (France). — Sports Reporter/Sport24.