Mujati is ‘begging’ no more

New Zealand and Australia have a readymade ‘production plant’ of world class backs – the Pacific Islands of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Now it appears South Africa may have found it’s very own front row factory.

Two of the most promising young stars in the 2007 Super 14 tournament – Sharks prop Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira (whom we featured earlier this week) and Lions prop Brian Mujati – are both products of Peterhouse School in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

Peterhouse , situated about 85 kilometres south-east of Harare on the main Harare-Mutare road, is one of Zimbabwe’s most famous rugby schools and it appears to be “exporting” some prime products to its southerly neighbours.

However, Mujati – unlike Mtawarira, who was scooped up by the Sharks academy structures and was at school a year after him – had to “beg” for an opportunity to put his talents on display in South Africa.

Mujati told this website that after he graduated from school in 2002 he did not have a contract and contacted all 14 the provincial unions in South Africa.

But nobody wanted him, with the exception of the Lions’ Under-21 coach at the time, Hugo van As.

Despite having played for Zimbabwe at the annual South African schools tournament, the Craven Week festival, Mujati found the interest in his services very low.

“I wasn’t contracted anywhere, so I wanted to come to South Africa to try out for a team,” Mujati said.

“I got on the phone to all the unions, all 14 and they [the Lions] were the only one who said I could come over.

“I spoke to the receptionist and she gave me the Under-20 coach’s number and I called him [Hugo van As]. He told me they were going to have trials the next week and if I could make it I should come over,” Mujati explained.

It was a huge leap for the youngster, who had to find his own way to Johannesburg. But he backed himself.

He played for the Lions’ junior team for a couple of years, before he was drafted into the Lions’ senior ranks at the beginning of the 2006 Currie Cup season.

Despite a lack of experience at professional level, he has already showed signs of his potential and now – halfway through his first Super 14 season – many pundits have suggested that with the right nurturing he could be an international star one day.

He certainly won’t need to go “begging” for opportunities anymore. In fact unions will now be queuing at his door.

Mujati, who still returns home to Zimbabwe for holidays and over the December festive season, says he is “enjoying” life as a professional player at the Lions.

He doesn’t profess to know it all and readily admits that he is taking baby steps with the help of the Lions’ forwards coach Leon Boshoff.

“I wasn’t suppose to be playing [Super 14 rugby] in beginning of the season,” he said. “But then Kenny [McKenzie] got injured and here I am,” he said.

Although Mujati was a member of the Lions’ broader Super 14 squad, coach Eugene Eloff had planned to slowly introduce the 22-year-old front row forward to the rigours of this tough SANZAR tournament.

But injuries forced his hand and Mujati repaid the faith shown in him with some remarkably mature performances.

Still, he takes the massive step up – from a few Currie Cup matches to Super 14 rugby – in his stride.

“If you get told what to do it is not that hard,” the quietly spoken youngster said in his unassuming manner.

“Bossie [Leon Boshoff, Lions forwards coach] is holding my hand all the way and he has been doing a lot of hard work with the forwards,” he explained, when asked who is giving him the advice that has seen him stand up to some of the most experienced front row forwards in world rugby,

While many South African players dread a four- or five-week tour to Australasia, Mujati saw it as an opportunity to learn more.

“I enjoyed it,” he said of the Lions’ just completed tour.

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