By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa will again rely heavily on experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira in which they expect to be a bruising scrum confrontation with New Zealand in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
The powerfully-built Zimbabwe-born loosehead prop, a cult figure in South Africa whose nickname is chanted by spectators when he drives forward with ball in hand, is expected to win his 96th cap in Saturday’s test at Newlands,
“Beast is comfortable where he is in his career now, he’s such an integral figure in the team,” Springbok scrum coach Matthew Proudfoot told reporters on Tuesday.
“When he stands up and talks the guys listen. Beast is really focused on what he wants to achieve and he had taken to heart the parameters that were set at the beginning of the year in terms of conditioning and work rate.”
South Africa will be hoping to prove much more competitive than they were last month when the New Zealand handed them a record 57-0 drubbing in Auckland.
“With the All Blacks, it’s very physical in the scrums, they come straight at you. They aren’t too bothered with too many tricks, it is a straight contest,” Proudfoot said.
“To have a guy with 95 caps in your team, that’s a lot of valuable experience. The most experienced South African prop of all-time. Experience counts for everything, especially in the front row you only learn the trade by being at he coal face,” Proudfoot added.
“But it’s not only his scrumming ability but his defensive play, his passing. He’s an ex-back row forward that has that skill and he’s comfortable doing that.
Mtawarira had a break from Super Rugby after the June series against France.
“He came into form after that,” Proudfoot said. “It’s important to give those kinds of breaks to senior players.
“At the age of 32, he is not letting the younger guys better him. So when he sets that sort of work ethic, it’s very easy for the younger guys to follow.”
South Africa and New Zealand, who have already won the annual southern hemisphere competition, conclude their Rugby Championship campaign with Saturday’s game.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)