sport news Tendai Mtawarira backs South Africa to maul the British and Irish Lions

sport news Tendai Mtawarira backs South Africa to maul the British and Irish Lions
sport news Tendai Mtawarira backs South Africa to maul the British and Irish Lions

When 'The Beast' starts talking about scrums and emotion, it is time to listen.

'The scrum is a big point of focus for South African rugby,' the iconic former Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira - architect of so much destruction over a career that lived up to his nickname - exclusively tells Sportsmail.

'We pride ourselves on it. We've created a scrummaging culture that goes way back and was passed on to us. We take a lot of confidence from it, imposing ourselves on opponents.

Tendai Mtawarira (centre) spoke to Sportsmail exclusively prior to South Africa vs Lions series

Tendai Mtawarira (centre) spoke to Sportsmail exclusively prior to South Africa vs Lions series

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'There aren't too many places on the field you can be confrontational, and get stuck into the opposition. Tackling? Yes. Carrying? Yes.

'But in the scrum, when it's eight-on-eight there is no better place to show dominance. It's a big part of winning Tests in South Africa, and is engrained in us.' 

So while the Lions tour games may be low-key walkovers, including the match against Mtawarira's old side the Sharks on Wednesday, they cannot be led into a false sense of security.

As seen in the savaging of the 2009 Lions front-row and England's in the World Cup final 10 years later, both performances built on the Beast's shoulders, the Boks take battles up front to heart.

'That England World Cup win didn't just happen overnight, it was building blocks from 2018 and before, having a scrum plan, an ethos,' Mtawarira says with his deep bass voice, which would be incredibly intimidating if he ever stopped smiling.

Mtawarira was a key part of South Africa's 2019 Rugby World Cup success - destroying scrums

'We always challenged each other. Everyone took accountability for it - not just those up front.

'If a scrum went backwards, our No 8 Duane Vermeulen would take it personally. For him it means a lot. It does to all of us.' The Springboks have always been an emotionally-charged team.

Latterly head honcho Rassie Erasmus has unleashed that further, embracing the diversity and stories of those in the famous green shirts.

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When Mtawarira burst onto the scene in 2008 he was often the only black man in the team, but when retiring 11 years on the Boks were a celebration of difference.

'Rassie was instrumental to that,' he explains.

Mtawarira poses with the Rugby World Cup trophy after the Springboks triumph over England

Mtawarira poses with the Rugby World Cup trophy after the Springboks triumph over England

'He addressed all those things that weren't before, how the team had to embrace diversity, inclusivity. Other coaches were not confident talking about those, as they were seen as political.

'We appreciated each other's stories which made us much stronger.

'Embracing diversity gave us so much power. It can be used as a blueprint

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