Africa revels in Boks World Cup triumph Tendai “Beast’’ Mtawarira

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
Africa woke up yesterday beaming with pride following South Africa’s Rugby World Cup triumph which the continent hopes will bring unity and heal some of the wounds inflicted by the horror of the recent xenophobic attacks. Events in Yokohama, Japan, on Saturday generated huge interest across Africa as the continent embraced the Boks as their team in their showdown against England.

The comprehensive 32-12 triumph for the Boks torched celebrations across the continent.

Fans were proud that, at long last, a black man, Boks captain Siya Kolisi, had received the honour of lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy.

“Congratulations @Springboks on a well-deserved victory in the #RWCFinal,” tweeted President Mnangagwa.

“You have done our region and all of Africa proud @CyrilRamaphosa.”

The President also retweeted a message posted by South African rapper AKA who has four million followers on Twitter.

“Let’s not forget Zimbabwe also won the World Cup today,” tweeted AKA. “Now, that’s definition of #StrongerTogether.”

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, also took to Twitter to congratulate the Boks.

“What a victory, what a team, my warmest congratulations to #Siyakolisi RWCFinal, you made your country and the entire Continent proud #StrongerTogether.” Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s appearance in the Boks team for the final meant there was huge interest across the country in the final with many sports clubs and bars being packed for the early morning kick-off.

Then, after the trophy had been won, thousands of Zimbabweans took to Twitter to express their pride in the success story.

Since Nelson Mandela transformed it into a grand political show in 1995, a Rugby World Cup final triumph for the Springboks has always meant more than just a victory in a global sporting event.

Mandela’s successor as South African President, Thabo Mbeki, was also there on the podium in Paris in 2007, wearing a Bok jersey, as captain John Smit lifted the Webb Ellis trophy.

Fast forward another dozen years, President Cyril Ramaphosa also graced the on-field celebrations at the Yokohama Stadium, wearing a Springbok jersey, and helped captain Siya Kolisi lift the trophy on Saturday.

And, on a momentous day for world rugby, a black player, who would not have been allowed to feature for the Boks during apartheid because of the colour of his skin, was now the team’s triumphant captain.

A black wing, Makazola Mapimpi also became the first Bok to score a try in a World Cup final when he dotted across the line on Saturday to set up his team’s success.

Mandela had gambled in 1995 to use the Springboks who, until then were viewed by the majority blacks as the sporting arm of the racist apartheid rulers, as a unifying force for his fractured country.

And, as Kolisi lifted the Webb Ellis trophy after a dominant 32-12 final win over England, it appeared life had finally come full circle for both the team and their country.

“I know Madiba is up there smiling down on you,” former Boks wing Bryan Habana tweeted as his country celebrated on Saturday.

While this Boks team had more than a dozen black players, compared to only one – the late Chester Williams in 1995 – racial tensions, and divisions, remain pronounced in South Africa.

And, even worse still, sporadic deadly attacks by the blacks on immigrants have been a common feature of this country in recent years.

Earlier this year, scores of black immigrants, including some Zimbabweans, were killed in the xenophobic attacks.

On Saturday, as South Africa partied wildly celebrating a third Rugby World Cup triumph, the irony wasn’t lost on some who picked out that one of their star players in the final was an immigrant.

Mtawarira produced a masterclass in that final against England to lay the foundation for the Boks victory.

And, in Durban, a few hours later, Nigerian international goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi was the star of the show with two saves in the penalty shootout to help Kaiser Chiefs eliminate Orlando Pirates in a feisty Telkom Challenge Cup quarter-final.

The same Akpeyi, who a few months earlier came out publicly to say he was concerned about his safety as an immigrant in South Africa, was now being treated as a hero.

No wonder some analysts were quick to point out on Saturday that Mtawarira’s heroics should translate into a better treatment of his fellow Zimbabweans based in South Africa.

“This is fantastic,” tweeted Scottish writer, Stephen Walsh, who spent three years as an expatriate teacher in Bulawayo where he ended up falling in love with Highlanders.

“Let’s hope the Beast’s success will lead to more tolerance of Zimbabweans in some areas of South Africa.”

The Beast isn’t the first Zimbabwean to lift the Webb Ellis trophy in the colours of South Africa.

Bobby Skinstad, who was born in Bulawayo before going to play for the Boks, won the World Cup in 2007.

Gary Teichmann, who was born in Gweru, captained the Boks in 36 of his 42 Tests for them, winning 23, including a record-equaling 17 Tests in succession in the ‘90s.

While he didn’t win the World Cup, he is considered one of the Boks greatest leaders in history.

But, what makes Mtawarira’s achievements significant is that he is the first black Zimbabwean to do that.

And, in the context of the xenophobic attacks, Walsh, who wrote the book “Voices of the Old Firm,” about the rivalry of Glasgow football giants Celtic and Rangers, believes that can make a difference.

There are many Zimbabweans who have gladly embraced the Boks’ latest triumph as one of their own, and for a good measure too.

For, they see the Beast as one of them, an example of the heights they can scale if they dedicate themselves to their craft.

One of the best pre-final messages for Mtawarira came from the boys at his old school Peterhouse in Marondera.

They posted a video on line reminding the Beast of their pride he remains one of them and wishing him well.

“On behalf of Peterhouse, I would like to tell Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira how proud we are for attending the same school as he did,” leader, with scores of his schoolmates in the background, said in the video.

“It is a huge honour for me to wish the Soringboks the greatest of success on Saturday.

“You have inspired us to believe that if you want to get to the top, we can.

“I hope you still remember the war cry.”

Then, the team exploded into their war cry, not as intimidating as the All Blacks haka but certainly a special one in its own right.

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