Springbok legend and World Cup winner 'The Beast' Mtawarira retires

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Springbok legend Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira announced Wednesday his retirement from international rugby, four days after helping South Africa win the Rugby World Cup.

It was his third appearance at the global showpiece and after quarter-final (2011) and semi-final (2015) losses, he achieved his greatest ambition in Japan last Saturday.

He started the final against England, which South Africa won 32-12, before being replaced by Steven Kirchoff soon after half-time in a pre-arranged move.

Coach Rassie Erasmus included six forwards among his eight replacements in key World Cup matches, which allowed him to bring on virtually a new, fresh pack during the second half.

Zimbabwe-born Mtawarira, 34, has been a fixture at loose head prop since debuting in 2008 and he is the third most capped Springbok with 117 after retired duo Victor Mayfield and Bryan Habana.

He combined powerful scrumming with loose-play surges that triggered chants of "Beast, Beast, Beast" from excited South African supporters.

While many footballers in South Africa have nicknames, the 'Beast' is the only top-level rugby player to have one.

"I have been privileged to play this great game and achieve many career goals over the last 12 years of playing senior rugby," said Mtawarira in a statement issued by SA Rugby.

- 'Perfect ending' -

"I have been blessed to have been part of teams that achieved so much success over the years, and I have many memories to cherish forever.

"(But) I can honestly say that winning the Rugby World Cup is the perfect ending and cherry on top.

"I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by many top coaches at the Springboks and the Sharks, and grateful to my numerous team mates over the years."

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander hailed Mtawarira, who made his Springbok debut against Wales in Pretoria 11 years ago.

"'The Beast' is someone who never complained, always put in the hard work and simply got on with his job in his typically unassuming way," he said.

"When he first got an opportunity at the Sharks, he rode a bicycle to training, which perfectly sums up not only his humbleness, but his desire to make it to the top.

"'Beast', thank you for what you have done for South African rugby, to show that Springboks can indeed be gentle giants, and for never putting your own interests above those of the team.

"We salute you and will miss you in the green and gold."