Tendai Mtawarira – the “Beast”

Tendai Mtawarira was born in Zimbabwe but now lives in South Africa. Until his retirement in 2019 he was a star prop forward for the Springbok rugby team. He is 6ft 2in and weighs 18st 13lbs. When he was nine years old, he was given a nickname by his schoolmates in Zimbabwe the “Beast”. He was a fearsome scrummager and battering ram ball carrier. Whenever he got the ball the home fans chanted “Beast! Beast! Beast!” He played 117 Test matches for the Springboks and was a member of the team that won the 2019 World Cup.

After he retired Tendai spoke about a heart condition that nearly derailed his stellar rugby career. It started in 2010 and Tendai said it was the scariest thing to ever happen to him; “It was a normal day, I had lunch with the boys and a cup of coffee. The next thing I felt my heart beating so fast. I called the team doctor, and they rushed me to the cardiologist. He figured out I had a heart arrhythmia. When you hear you have some kind of heart condition, you start fearing for your career. That was the biggest shock although the cardiologist told me it was not life-threatening and wouldn’t stop me from playing but would be ongoing and would slow me down. When my heart went out of sync, they rushed me to the emergency room and used the defibrillators. They knocked me out and shocked me back to life. Then my heart was back in sync.”

Tendai said, “It was a challenge, and my faith came into play. I am a very strong Christian and faith has always been my foundation.” Tendai suffered another scare the night before a Springboks’ Test against Ireland in Dublin. He said, “I remember breaking down and crying in front of our team manager. I had to leave camp, was put on the next flight, and went for another ablation.” Thankfully after that third incident it never came back again.

Tendai cares deeply about the education of children and young people in Africa. During the COVID-19 pandemic he became an ambassador for UNICEF focussing on schools in Zambia. This is an expression of his Christian faith and his commitment to loving his neighbour as he loves himself. He said, “I am deeply worried about the futures of our children if school closures continue.” Across Africa, schools are not only places of learning, but places that protect many children from violence, often offering them their one nutritious meal of the day, and a way out of living in poverty”. Tendai now runs The Beast Foundation to support children and youth in Africa.

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