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A Tribute To A Beast, A Friend, And A RWC Legend

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A Tribute To A Beast, A Friend, And A RWC Legend

As we head into the championship game of the most beautiful sport on the planet, I’ve been reflecting on my buddy’s journey to get to where he is now.

We played rugby together and against each other since we were 13. Back then as a feared  No. 8, he was known for his destructive carrying which often left bodies of would be defenders littered on the field. On a good day he required the attention of three defenders (make that five on a bad day ... for the opposition). Nowadays he busies himself with making life a living hell for elite tightheads of the world, secure good clean ball for his team, and dominating the contact point.

That's my friend Tendai Mtawarira.

________________

By Kisset Chirengende

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Believe it or not in one game in my senior year of high school, I was the legend; buckle up as I make this about myself for a minute.

The year is 2003 and this is the first game of the season, Watershed College v Peterhouse Boys at Shane Buckley field, Watershed! My task from my coach was simple (or you would think): "you are the openside flanker today son. I don’t want you to do anything else but contain Beast."

As a much shorter, robust but relatively quick athlete, it wasn’t a straightforward task to complete. Trying to deal with a 6’1",103 kgs boy (astounding stats for a Zim high schooler) was a mare but dare I say it, I came out on top that day; thwarting every eightman pick this man mountain tried to execute and I duly got the man of the matches award for it.

But that’s as good as it gets for me, as it’s probably the only time I’ve ever got the best of this man. His work ethic is unmatched, his drive and passion to succeed and reinvent himself. And his humility and love for people exceptional. He is a much better man than I but I will take that win on that sunny Marondera afternoon as a treasured victory.

I always tell the story that almost all rugby players of my era in Zimbabwe’s high schools dreamt of going pro but 90% of us didn’t really believe we could, not really. Simply because there was no reference point for us to say: "Gee, that dude from the same background as me is up there playing Super Rugby, so this can actually be done."

Most Super Rugby teams were full of big white foreign nationals that we loved and idolized, but didn’t really relate to. Beast saw it differently; he was was futuristic! He saw himself there and fashioned his lifestyle around this dream, even sacrificing holidays and free time to work on his craft—a rare and unnecessary thing at that time amongst our peers.

Now, because of his achievements, a lot of black Zim and South African kids coming up have actual belief it can be done because in some way he trailblazed.

So it is no surprise that he, a young black boy from ‘mere’ Zimbabwe is preparing to play the most important game of his life on Saturday, the Rugby World Cup Final against England in arguably the 3rd biggest World Sporting Stage after the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. Wow.

Last December, a group of us, friends and family, were vacationing, as is our custom every year, at Victoria Falls. As you can imagine, we were having the time of our lives; it also happened to be the leadup to my wedding and we were there getting happy and fat on nice food and drink. But not Beast! He was on rice cakes, salad, salmon strips and green tea while practising twice a day in the gorge of ZambeZi. 

Check out the video >> 

The result?  He has posted career high stats, especially in 10m and 50m acceleration! that speaks of explosiveness and dynamism. Realistically, these should be diminishing at this stage of his career. How is that possible that they are getting better? Answer : Sheer determination and good ol hard work

He currently is the most capped Springbok in the team, 3rd of all time behind legends Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana. The most capped SA Super Rugby player, the most capped SA prop of all time, the most capped black African. Man I could go on and on. Out of 117 tests he has only come off the replacements bench 15 times! Astonishing! The durability longevity and consistency is really a marvel.

He has meticulously and deliberately prepared for this moment since he was about 16.

Go on and take your place you Legend; you are a GOAT in my eyes my brother and I’m super proud of you and grateful to be sharing this moment with you. Whatever the outcome on Saturday your name is etched among the greats of this beautiful game

Hande dhara! chow someone .

—Kisset Chirengende coaches rugby at William Paterson University

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