Why Beast is going home
Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira was fit to play for the Springboks against Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday, but the need for him to undergo a minor medical procedure and then recover in time for next season prompted the decision to send him home.
The big loosehead prop has been replaced by young Western Province prop Frans Malherbe in the wider group, and will join up with the squad in midweek, but Mtawarira’s place in the front-row for the Murrayfield game will be taken by Gurthro Steenkamp. The former Bulls front-ranker has now recovered from the minor rib injury that made him unavailable for the opening match against Ireland, according to team doctor Craig Roberts.
“Fortunately Gurthro’s condition, which was sustained playing for his club, has cleared up and we are expecting him to be back in full training this afternoon (Monday),” said Roberts.
Roberts reiterated what he had said at the weekend about Mtawarira’s condition not being life threatening and it not being a risk for him to play against Scotland.
“As you know, Beast experienced heart palpitations late on Friday. He has had them before and he suffers from a condition known as atrial fibrillation. It’s not life-threatening, and he would be able to play with it, but he does need to undergo a minor medical procedure at some stage. I had a meeting with Beast together with coach Heyneke Meyer and together we decided that it would be best for him to go and do it now.
“What needs to be done is for the nerves that cause his condition to be isolated. He has had the procedure before but obviously they did not kill off all the cells. So he is going to go to Cape Town this week and have it done. While he can play with his condition, it would require four to five weeks for him to recover from the medical procedure, so we decided it would be best for him to do it now.
“I just want to reiterate that Beast’s condition is not career threatening and neither is it life threatening. He has had what happened to him on Friday five times before, this was just the first time it happened before a game. It usually happens after he has played. There are quite a few other players who have had it.”
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Meyer said that Mtawarira will be missed by the Boks as he is one of the senior players who had the mental toughness for a tour such as the current one, but that it was the right time for him to have his condition seen to.
“We had a few meetings and we decided it was better, considering the stage of the season we are currently in, for him to have it sorted out now. We would be back to square one if Beast had a recurrence of the condition during the remaining weeks of the tour, and obviously we also want players to be fully focused,” said Meyer.
“It is difficult for us as front-row was one of the few areas we have had continuity after the injury to Bismarck du Plessis. But I am pleased that Gurthro is now fit and ready to play. It was a big call for me to select Gurthro, and it was something I thought of long and hard. Ideally I would like to have Beast starting and Gurthro coming on off the bench, but it is a good situation when you have a player of Gurthro’s experience and ability ready to come in.”
There is a potential problem looming though for Meyer at tighthead, with Jannie du Plessis having rolled his ankle early in the Ireland game. Meyer is hopeful that he will be ready to face Scotland, but the uncertainty explains the call-up to Malherbe, who normally wears the No 3, as the replacement for Beast.