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Tue 7 Jul 2020 | 12:27

The conversion of a Beast and his scary heart condition

The conversion of a Beast and his scary heart condition
Tue 7 Jul 2020 | 12:27
The conversion of a Beast and his scary heart condition
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IN CONVERSATION WITH TENDAI MTAWARIRA: In part two of his engaging chat the Springbok World Cup winner opens up about some very personal issues in his life.

Mtawarira, speaking to historian and author Dean Allen – as part of a hugely popular weekly fund-raising effort for the Chris Burger and Petro Jackson Players Fund – spoke about his conversion from loose forward to prop, the heart condition that nearly derailed his career and his faith.

* Don’t miss the final interview of a wonderful series – when Allen chats to World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White. CLICK HERE to sign up for FREE!

The now-retired Bok legend, affectionately known as Beast, regaled viewers with how he was converted to a prop back in 2006, after he played in the back row his entire schoolboy career.

“When I got scouted by the Sharks, I was a No.8,” he told Allen, adding: “My first year, in the [Sharks] Under-20 [team] I played back row.

“Swys de Bruin, our [U20] coach at the time, tried to give me game time, because he saw I was very explosive, got around the park and carried the ball very well.

“His philosophy was that he just needed guys who were hungry – even if you were out of position, don’t worry about it.”

Mtawarira admitted there was uncertainty surrounding his career, because he had been told a few times he was ‘not tall enough to jump in the line-outs’.

“Dick Muir was the Sharks coach at the time. He said: ‘Beast I see you progressing and becoming a star, [but] for you to do that I think you need to change position’.

“He [Muir] asked me to change to the front row. I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the idea. People were suggesting it would take me a few years to master the technique.

“It was June 2006 and we were in the Currie Cup. He [Muir] asked me to drop out and go play some club rugby.

“[The 1995 World Cup-winning Bok prop] Balie Swart took me under his wing. He made me move around with a note pad and write down all the information I needed to know to be a successful prop.

“I eventually bought into the idea,” he said of a change that would see him play a record 117 Tests in the front row and win a World Cup.

(Continue reading below … )

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Mtawarira also revealed the heart condition that threatened to derail his career, describing it as the “scariest” thing that happened to him.

“It started in 2010, during the Super Rugby season,” the 34-year-old said, adding: “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,” he said of a condition where the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

“When you hear you have some kind of heart condition, you start fearing for your career.

“That was the biggest shock.

“The cardiologist [said]: ‘This is not life-threatening’.

“He said it won’t stop me from playing, but it is ongoing and will slow me down.

“What they did when my heart went out of sync, was to rush me to the emergency room. They used the defibrillators. They knocked me out and shocked me back to life. Then my heart was back in sync.

“It was a challenge and my faith came into play. I am a very strong Christian and faith has always been my foundation.

“I played with the condition for about six months, before I went to Cape Town to do a process called ablation,” he said of a procedure where they use energy to make small scars in your heart tissue.

It stops abnormal electrical signals that move through your heart and cause an irregular heartbeat.

“They told me I could not do any sporting activities for two months. It was off-season, so I was able to recover and come back and play Super Rugby.

“However, it didn’t go away. It came back again. I had to go for another ablation, sit out for another couple of months.”

The third time it happened to Mtawarira was before an Irish Test in Dublin.

“The Friday night it [the arrhythmia] was back again. I remember breaking down and crying in front of our team manager Charles Wessels. I had to leave camp and was put on the next flight out and went for another ablation.

“It was pretty tough, but I remained faithful and after that third incident it never came back again.

“I was in the best shape ever, played some of my best rugby and was able to win a World Cup.

“It is a testimony of being faithful.”

* Don’t miss the final interview of a wonderful series – when Allen chats to World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White. CLICK HERE to sign up for FREE!

@king365ed
@rugby365com

Also worth reading …

IN CONVERSATION WITH TENDAI MTAWARIRA
IN CONVERSATION WITH VICTOR MATFIELD – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH VICTOR MATFIELD – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CLASS OF ’95 – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CLASS OF ’95 – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN SMIT – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN SMIT – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH BRYAN HABANA – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH BRYAN HABANA – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH SCHALK BURGER
IN CONVERSATION WITH JEAN DE VILLIERS

Jake White

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