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When Joel Stransky dropped the winning goal in the World Cup final in Johannesburg in 1995, Tendai Mtawarira did not have a clue the game was going on. He was 700 miles away in Harare, and more interested in football.
“I was just a primary school kid in Zimbabwe back then,” recalled the veteran Springbok loosehead, who will pack down opposite Kyle Sinckler in Saturday’s World Cup final. “I didn’t watch rugby. I was playing soccer.
“In 2007, though [when South Africa beat England in the final in Paris], I did watch and it was amazing, inspirational stuff.
Stuff journalists Jackson Thomas and Duncan Johnstone discuss the final matches of the Rugby World Cup.
“To be part of a World Cup final is a dream come true for me. I have worked hard throughout my whole career to get here and I want to make it count.”
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Mtawarira – or “Beast” as he is universally known – will be one of South Africa’s key players on Saturday. Aged 34, he may no longer be the physical specimen he once was. The rampaging runs have slowed a bit. The shouts of “Beeeaaast” as he drives over the gain line with two or three defenders hanging off him marginally less frequent.
But there is a reason Rassie Erasmus, the head coach, keeps on picking him. Mtawarira weighs well over 18st, he is hugely powerful and technically gifted, more than capable of giving Sinckler nightmares if the England tighthead is not on his game.
Just ask Phil Vickery. Mtawarira had only converted from the back row to prop a couple of years before t
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