Beast Mtawarira speaks rugby World Cup, Covid-19 and the transition from sports to business management

This week Zimbabwe Digital News caught up with celebrated rugby player Beast Mtawarira, and asked him about news in the newspapers that he has become a recipient of a special scholarship from Henley Business School Africa.

This is on a prestigious programme that is designed to help sports icons successfully transition from the change room and the sports stadium – to the boardroom. This is what Beast said:

1. What did Shingi Jena say about Henley?

So Shingi and I went to the same school – Peterhouse – in Zimbabwe. And he went to London immediately after school – and he has been based there ever since. He did his MBA whilst he was there.

He advised me that if I wanted to give myself the right foundation to start a business career – I should enrol for the MBA, and he obviously gave Henley Business School strong reference.

He told me about their great reputation. So yep, I’m here at Henley.

2. You say that the transition from the bright lights of the stadium to life outside the stadium has been smooth?

The transition. It’s obviously been smooth, to an extent (laughs).

Because obviously I do miss playing, but the fact of the matter is that I had a great career – a great rugby career – in which I pretty much achieved everything that I wanted to achieve.

And the way that I finished my career last year – it was a dream come true for me.

And so that kind of laid the platform, and so I definitely do not have no regrets. I knew exactly what I was going to get involved with after rugby – I am involved in a security company, and I am one of the directors there.

So it is a great opportunity, I knew that I wanted to go back to studying. It is kind of to keep my mind busy and focused on other things. So that I don’t really get time to miss rugby (laughs), because I’m so busy.

But yes, the transition has been quite smooth – to an extent – yeah.

3. How are you keeping fit during this period of lockdown?

So yeah, it has been very difficult to keep fit during this time – you know without being able to go to the gym – or to run around. But I’m fortunate enough to have a few weights in my garage you know at home, and a bike.

So I have kind of used that a lot. Cycling, so I have managed do some (home) gyming, and I have managed to keep some sort of fitness.

But is hasn’t been ideal because it is not the kind of training that I usually put myself through. But I guess that you make do with what you have got. But for what I have done during this time, I guess that I’m in decent shape (laughs).

4. Your views generally about Covid-19. As humans were we prepared for this outbreak?

Yeah obviously Covid-19 has been quite a tragedy you know, it has disrupted the whole world, disrupted everything – and pretty much caused the whole world to come to a sudden stop. And it has been difficult for people to adjust – being stuck at home for so long.

They can’t go to work, a lot of people have lost their jobs, a lot of people can’t put food on their table. So this kind of appeals to our human side of us, you know the side when you just want to connect to somebody – to help somebody. Because right now you can’t just think about yourself you know.

You have to think about the greater picture, you gotta think about everyone else that is out there. So just try to go out and do your utmost best, so we have have seen great humanity that has been shown by a lot people out there, across the world.

It has been a scary time, because nobody quite knows, when this thing is going to stop. We have shown strength as the human race, to stay positive, to fight this thing head on.

You see, it has already been defeated in some parts of the world. A lot of countries are going back to normality. Its just a matter of time before it goes away. We just have to keep on the faith and keep on fighting

5. When are you coming the visit Churchill High?

On the fifth question, when to I come back to Churchill (laughs). I plan to visit Zimbabwe soon, yeah any time, I’m not so sure when this travel ban. But yes, in the not so distant future, I plan to be involved with some rugby, and I’m hoping to mentor some young players, and just kind of teach them how to be ultimate professionals.

So I’m sure that I’ll be visiting Churchill in good time, and yes, I’ll just try and help them out

6. Your message to your legions of fans and followers in Zimbabwe?

I just want to send a message to all my fans in Zimbabwe – and everybody else – to just stay positive, obviously just keep faith keep on fighting. It is obviously a difficult time, there is a lot of uncertainty.

We just have to kind of stick together as the human race. We have to really take this thing head on, and we just have to wait for it to go away, because there is nothing really that we can do beside that.

To stand together.
So I would really like to encourage all Zimbabweans to really stand together during this time, help each other out, and just be there for one another. Yeah.

7. Your lasting memories of winning the rugby World Cup?

Obviously the World Cup was really special. It was the best time of my rugby career. I really had a truely amazing time in Japan. The whole experience in Japan surreal, just to experience their hospitality – from meeting the people there – it was truely incredible. They are truely humble people, they go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.

So I have got great memories of connecting with the locals. And I made some very great friends there, for life. And obviously standing on that stage with the trophy after the final.

It is probably the lasting memory that I’ll keep with for ever, a memory that I will pass on to my grand kids you know. My kids they were there, so this is something for my grand kids, something that I will hold on to forever.

It was truely special to realise the ultimate dream you know – winning a World Cup – and the way that we did it – it was spectacular. So that memory of just being on the stage, just being at the height of sports success and joy. Yeah, you know, the joy, it was truely unexplainable (laughs).

Very, very special

8. Your thoughts about your short stay in the US, and how the stay was affected by Covid-19?

Yes my short stay in the US, it was not ideal. I was really enjoying my time there. I was there for two months. I went there in February, and started playing for All Glory in Washington DC. I was really welcomed by the locals, very well. They kind of made me feel at home, and everything was going great.

I had settled in I had a place in Du Pont Circle which is in Central DC, and I was loving the city, the scenery, and just getting familiar with everything. So things were going well, rugby was going well.

As a team the All Glory team never lost a game ever since I arrived. So we were looking very good to end the season on a huge high – probably playing in the finals.

But everything was got cut short by the Corona Virus, which was not ideal, and I had to come back home, but nevertheless it was a great experience.

I was getting a lot of coaching in the schools. I worked with some inner city school kids, some who didn’t know anything about rugby. I had to teach them rugby from scratch. That was very enlightening to me, and very humbling, and a very great experience.

9. What do you look to do after you have completed your studies with Henley?

OK so after I have completed my studies – my PG Dip and hopefully my MBA, I want to propel myself in the businessworld you know. You know I am involved with Fidelity Services Group, a security company. I have been involved there for the last nine years. Very fortunate to have a great mentor in the CEO Vahl Baartman.

He is a former rugby player and former Springbok – he was very successful in his own right. We have struck a really great friendship. So we have been involved together for the past couple of years, he took me under his wing.

He took me to Fidelity, started off as being a brand ambassador, doing some adverts. Then I was offered shares, and now I’m one of the directors in the company. So it has always been a long term plan for me to get involved.

So I want to kind of use the skills that I am going to get now through doing my studies. Apply it in the business environment and I want to progress. Get the some success in the business environment as I got on the rugby field.

So I really think that my studies are going to equip me with everything that I need in this journey.

10. Any other comments, please feel free to add further information regarding your transition from sports star on the field, to sports star in the boardroom?

What is really important is for sportsman to prepare for life after the game. The fact of the matter is that rugby only lasts for so long, so even if you dedicate a lot of your time to the sport, but this journey ultimately ends.

I saw a lot of my peers – they became ex-rugby players – kind of run into a lot of problems , a lot of difficulties – because they did not think about the life after the game. So the advice that I want to give to all young sportmen and women out there. You really have to find your other love besides sport.

Not just a hobby, but something in business that you really enjoy. You work on it whilst you are playing, spend time on it, invest in it, whether you are aligning yourself to certain brands for a long time. Do that.

Put yourself out there, you never know who you are going to meet, and it is really important to know what you want to do earlier on, don’t waste too much time. You know that your time clock kind of runs out very quickly when you are enjoying the game.

You have to make sure that you invest yourself in a business of some sort. Or if it is studies, go back and do a course that is going to enrich yourself, and help you to prepare for life after sport.

So that you can set yourself up. So that one day when you retire, you do so with a smile on your face, and not panic. You know other things can happen as well. Injuries in sport, there are a lot of things that can hamper your sporting career. So it is important to prepare. That is my last advice there.

Beast Mtawarira was speaking to Kenneth Chikanga




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