Bok legend's surprise move to Old Glory
NEWS: World Cup-winning Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira has decided to continue playing, but in the fledgeling United States Major League Rugby competition.
Mtawarira, affectionately known as ‘The Beast’, confirmed the move on social media.
“Delighted to confirm that I’ve signed with @usmlr‘s @OldGloryDC,” he said.
“I’m excited and look forward to joining my new teammates and adding value to my new franchise both on and off the field,” he added.
“I believe this opportunity will allow me to mentor the rugby youth in D.C. and help (in my small way) to grow the game in America.”
2/2… and help (in my small way) to grow the game in the America
I’d like to thank the owners Paul Sheehy and Chris Dunlavey, Coach Andrew and the whole Old Glory D.C organization for making this process easy for my family and I. #GloryAwaits
— Tendai Mtawarira (@Beast_TM) December 18, 2019
Mtawarira, South Africa’s third-most capped player of all time – with 117 Tests, behind Victor Matfield (127) and Bryan Habana (124) – was a key member of the Bok team that beat England 32-12 in the World Cup Final in Yokohama, Japan, last month.
Mtawarira is his country’s most capped prop.
He played his first Test on 14 June 2008, age 22, in a 37-21 win over Wales at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.
After his demolition job on the English scrum in Japan, the 34-year-old announced his retirement from international rugby.
Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mtawarira has spent his professional career playing for the Durban-based Sharks – for whom he made more than 200 appearances in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.
His appearances for the South African national team included taking on the British and Irish Lions on their 2009 tour.
The Old Glory franchise said they placed as much value on Mtawarira’s character as they did on his on-field performances.
“It’s exciting to have one of the worlds best players here at Old Glory,” the franchise’s coach Andrew Douglas said in a statement on the team’s website.
“As a coach, not only am I excited about what Tendai brings to the pitch, but also what he brings to our environment.
“He is an excellent professional and the values and character he brings will be important in raising the bar for the whole squad.
“To have a guy who has played 117 test matches yet is still so hard-working and humble can only be beneficial for us. The signing takes the league to another level.”
Mtawarira said he wants to “thank the whole Old Glory organization” for making the move possible.
“I can’t wait to make an impact on and off the field and help to contribute to making Old Glory the best team in this league.”
Gary Gold, head coach of the US national men’s team, the Eagles, and a native of South Africa, said: “The news that Tendai Mtawariri has signed to play his rugby at Old Glory in Washington is an incredibly strong message that the MLR competition is now a league that top players are starting to take seriously.
“To have a player of Tendai’s ability, and in his current form, as we saw in the recent RWC final, is a testament to the work that has been put in over recent years to form a sustainable competitive competition in the USA, that can attract players of the quality of Tendai. I know Beastie well and I know what incredible value he will bring to the Old Glory team and the MLR.”
Old Glory’s signing of Mtawarira marks a recurrence of the unexpected connections between the MLR expansion team and South Africa.
* Additional reporting by @OldGloryDC