Johannesburg — Local boy. Maritzburg College alum and first Springbok prop. Must enjoy long walks on the promenade and be able to turn soil. They call me Toeks. #Farmlife.
That might well be Ntuthuko Mchunu personal add or dating profile — if he were to ever place or create one. On Wednesday, the soon-to-be new Springbok revealed all these little titbits to the media collected in Bloemfontein ahead of the second Test against Wales.
Mchunu is one of six new debutants that will make their first appearance for the Springboks after head coach Jacques Nienaber surprised all earlier this week with a radically changed matchday 23. The powerful loose-head prop has been likened to the legendary Beast Mtawarira, so it is easy to understand why there is a fair amount of hype surrounding the 23-year-old.
And although he is honoured by that comparison, the Mchunu is ready to break free of that particular shadow.
“It is a massive thing being called Beast 2.0 but I just want to create my own legacy,” he stated in a soothing bass tone.
“He is someone who set the bar high for us to reach butI want to do it my own way. He has been a great mentor — more off the field stuff as I kind of came into the system similarly to how he came in.
“(It is great) understanding that there is someone out there, who has done it before, just to come to if there is anything I need.”
Mchunu’s numbers for the season so far record 250m gained; 57 carries; 15 defenders beaten; two clean breaks; 90 tackles made and eight missed; one turnover; two try assists and two tries. He has played 857 minutes and was also a part of a Sharks pack that won 93% of their scrums in the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The step up to Test match rugby, however, is massive but Mchunu is confident he has the skills and insight to make a fist of his first appearance in the Green and Gold, most likely when he comes on in the second half off the bench.
“Personally,” he revealed, “I have had a sit down with coaches — they have played a huge part — and it hasn’t just been going on for this week.
“It has been happening ever since we were in Pretoria (during the preparation camp) when the other guys (Stormers and Bulls, among others) were playing. It is something that we have been preparing for these past four weeks or so.”
The Boks that beat Wales in the first Test certainly looked undercooked in the 32029 victory, but Mchunu believes that the aforementioned preparation camp will be enough to create a unified front on Saturday. It is true that in the 19 changes to the Bok team, there will be new combinations, so finding an immediate understating at the Free State Stadium will be important in overcoming a determined Wales.
“We have been together for a good couple of weeks. We spent a lot of time together on and off the field …
“We might not have played together but throughout the URC, we played against each other. We more or less know each other and I think these guys, particularly in the loose-trio (Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Evan Roos), complement each other.”
Mchunu will be a part of the much vaunted BombSquad, the same unit that narrowly pulled the Boks over the line last weekend. It is a role that the burly prop thoroughly understands, while also having massive faith in his teammates.
“I am just going to do what I’m picked for and do my best on my side,” he said.
“Obviously, it is a massive privilege and they have created that name for themselves, particularly the BombSquad coming on and making sure that they inflict that slow poison that is renowned for the Springboks.
“I have no worries running on with the men that I am running on with; guys that have won massive championships. They have really been a good guide and mentors for me throughout this week and the past couple of weeks.”
Kick-off on Saturday is at 5pm.