Mtawarira: Unlike other Springbok coaches, Rassie is 'honest'
The Springboks are gearing up for their third Rugby World Cup final – and second against England – on Saturday and boast a 100% win record in their two title matches so far.
South Africa famously beat New Zealand in the 1995 final, a tournament that they hosted after coming out of their international ban due to apartheid, before also lifting the trophy in 2007 in France, doing the double over England in the pool stage and in the final. If they are successful this weekend, they will join New Zealand with a total of three world championships and leave Australia (two) and England (one) behind.
Loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira has been a key cog in the side not only at this Rugby World Cup, but also for the past 11 years. The 34-year-old is looking to put all that experience to bear on Saturday, in what could well be his last game in the green and gold.
“All the things I’ve achieved in my career, and the tough lessons I’ve had to learn, everything has led to this moment. I’m very proud of this achievement to get here. I’ve walked a long road, and just looking forward to making it count on Saturday,” said Mtawarira, who was also effusive with praise for captain Siya Kolisi.
“What Siya has achieved has been remarkable. For a young kid from Zwide township in Port Elizabeth to rise above his circumstances and become Springbok captain, and lead the way he has, it’s been inspirational to all South Africans – from all walks of life. We are all proud of him, and we ultimately want to make it very special for him on Saturday.
“It would be amazing for South Africa for us to win the World Cup. A lot has gone into the preparation, and the road Siya has walked to get to here has been inspirational already.
“For that to be sealed off with winning the World Cup would be pretty amazing. We have to focus on the process to get there first, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Race and representation has long been a hot topic in South African rugby, but Mtawarira feels that the squad is in a good place going into the game and that head coach Rassie Erasmus has been an important factor in ensuring that all the people of South Africa feel represented by the Springboks.
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“It is really important that the team is well represented. I’ve had the privilege to see the team evolve to get to now… so many guys of colour who have been excellent and are deserving of their places in the squad. It is something Rassie was honest about, that we need to get the balance correct and we need to get a team that really represents our country. I think we have now achieved that.
“Rassie is a really good coach. He has come in and changed a lot of things. We have to go through certain scenarios we are going to face, like pressure moments in a game, and we always chat about what we are going to do in those moments.
“He’s very honest. He says it as it is. That’s one thing I’ve never had before with most Springbok coaches. That is something I really appreciate, and that’s a lot of the reason why the players really respect him. He really adds a lot of value before a test match.”
South Africa are due to name their squad for the final on Thursday and they have been boosted by the return to fitness of livewire wing Cheslin Kolbe. In a match as tight as this one promises to be, the Toulouse star could be a potential difference-maker in Yokohama.
Watch: World Rugby have come in for heavy criticism for their fine of England’s response to the Haka
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