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‘The diversity of South Africa is so inspiring because you get all different kinds of people.’

Gems in this

Photo>>>Gulshan Khan


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Feature by Kone Ndlovu; Interview: Michael Canning

Everyone in South Africa remembers the Springboks’ famous win in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. They also remember the prominent role that Tendai Mtawarira — a.k.a The Beast — played in securing the win for South Africa.

Tendai’s dominant performance, wherein he more than lived up to his nickname, was a fitting climax to a glittering career. Now, Tendai has retired, and is making his way through the next phase of his life from his home base on the serene Dolphin Coast in KwaZulu-Natal. He’s an active entrepreneur and his Durban-based charity, The Beast Foundation, which provides sporting and educational opportunities to young South Africans, is keeping him busier than ever. We caught up with Tendai to talk about life after rugby, the promise of South Africa’s youth and creativity, and where to get to when you’re on the Dolphin Coast.


On growing up in Zimbabwe

I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I grew up with two siblings: a younger brother and younger sister. My parents did their utmost best to give us a good start in life, but it was pretty tough in Harare in terms of getting the basics. We managed to get by though.

On discovering rugby

Harare is where I discovered my talent for the game of rugby, late in my primary school education. Before that I was actually an avid soccer player. My dad was a Manchester supporter, so I dreamed of becoming a goalie for Manchester United one day — but, obviously, I was too big. I was a bit of a manchild. I was quite big and quite aggressive, so when rugby came to the school, I immediately fell in love with the game. I found a way to channel my strength and all my energy. It was love at first sight. So I’ve enjoyed the game of rugby since the age of 10.

On where rugby has taken you

My sport has taken me all over the world, and I’ve been very privileged to play this amazing game of rugby on almost every continent. I’ve been able to soak in a lot of different cultures and had a lot of different learnings from every place I’ve been to. It’s something I really enjoy about travelling. So it has been quite an amazing privilege to be able to do that.

Production: Exceptional ALIEN (Creative Studio); Dare Content (Production Company); Chris Coetsee (EP); Matt Bouch (Producer); Jared Paisley (DOP); Gulshan Khan (Photographer); Mandla Mdletshe (Sound Recording). Post-production: The Editors; Nicolette Rousianos (EP); Liv Reddy (Head of Production); Matt Edwards (Online); Corey-Jay Walker (Online Assist); Shannon Michaelas (Main Offline Editor); Grace Eyre and Grace O’Connell (Offline Editors); Matt Fezz (Colourist); Shukry Adams (Stills Clean & Grade); Bonsta (Sound Design).

‘One of the things that I love about South Africa is that the people are go-getters and they go after what they believe in.’

On South African culture

South African culture inspires me because it’s dynamic. There is so much diversity from the people, the language. I’ve been privileged to live here for 19 years now, which is more than half of my life. I think one of the things that I love about South Africa is that the people are go-getters and they go after what they believe in. That really resonated with who I am and the kind of person I aim to be every single day.

On South Africa’s natural beauty

Travelling all over South Africa, you get different places from the bush to the ocean, and the beauty you see in the scenery is second to none. I truly believe that South Africa is the best-placed country on earth.

On the best safari

My favourite safari place to go to in South Africa is called Phinda Game Reserve. It’s in KwaZulu Natal, probably about three hours’ drive from Dolphin Coast. It’s a five-star game reserve — they’ve got the Big Five in there — and there’s a lot to do on the property. So the family loves to go there because they’re pretty comfortable, and also the food is equally amazing. It’s a place that we probably travel to twice a year. The second spot that I would pick would be Lion Sands Game Reserve, which is in the Kruger National Park, which is probably the biggest national park in Africa. It’s much bigger than Phinda — you can drive around the reserve and you will not finish it. It’s that big. It’s a pretty iconic game reserve.

On the diversity of South Africa

The diversity in South Africa is so inspiring because you get all different kinds of people. We speak 11-plus languages in the country. And you have Black, white, Indian, and all those people have different traditions and backgrounds. When it all comes together, you tear down those walls of differences and collaborate to do something even greater. That’s what I love about the Rainbow Nation, as we call it. I was born in Zimbabwe and I feel that I’m an adopted son of this land. And this has been something that’s spiritual to embrace.

All images of Tendai at Kings Park Stadium by Gulshan Khan for Exceptional ALIEN.

‘The vibe in Durban is very relaxed … whether you are the wealthiest man in the world or you are just the next person, you just wear whatever you feel comfortable in.’

On living in Durban

I used to live in Durban before I moved to the Dolphin Coast. The vibe in Durban is very relaxed. You will see a lot of people wearing shorts, vests and slops [flip-flops] — it’s like the dress code. Whether you are the wealthiest man in the world or you are just the next person, you just wear whatever you feel comfortable in and nobody will judge you. That’s one thing I love about this place — I can just be myself. I don't have to try and keep up appearances. The people are also very warm and always have a smile on their face when they greet you. There’s something really special about them. 

On where to go in Durban

There’s a lot to do around the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The segway tour is definitely one of the things my son loves. The distance between the stadium and the beach is close, so you can literally take a segway and go all the way to the beach and hang out there. It’s a really nice place to be with the family and the kids. To eat, Yori Ōki is a Japanese restaurant that me and my family enjoy — if you ask my son, he’ll tell you that his favourite food is sushi. It’s in a block called the Lifestyle Centre, and we go there for our shopping walkabout. It’s a cool hangout spot for us. 

On the Shark Stadium

The Shark Stadium is in the heart of the city and it’s an iconic stadium. I was able to play here for 15 years. I came here as a youngster, when I was 18, and this is where I grew and learned great things — not just from the players but also the coaches and the fans who came to every single game. This place represents so much more than rugby and resonates with the kind of person I am. It means a hell of a lot to me. 


First, second, third and fourth rows at the Oyster Box Hotel by Gulshan Khan for Exceptional ALIEN. Fifth row of Tendai on a segway at Moses Mabhida Stadium by Gulshan Khan for Exceptional ALIEN. Sixth row left of the Durban courtesy of Ahrys Art; right of segway tour by Gulshan Khan.

On Umhlanga Beach and one of South Africa’s most famous hotels

I love the Umhlanga Beach Promenade. It’s an iconic place and it’s a cool hangout spot, especially in the morning. If you’re a runner, come out there in the wee hours of the morning for a nice jog. I do that often. And it’s also got some really cool coffee spots. The scenery is beautiful. It’s just a really nice place to spend time in. And at Umhlanga Beach there’s the Oyster Box Hotel, which is probably the most iconic hotel in Durban. It’s a place that I love to go to for celebrating big moments with my family — wedding anniversaries, graduations. It has a lot of restaurants that offer a lot of different things. So I love it, it means a lot to me and my family.

On moving to the Dolphin Coast

The Dolphin Coast is my home! I’ve lived here for six years. It’s probably the prettiest part of KwaZulu-Natal. They call it the Dolphin Coast because you can see Bottlenose dolphins swimming right by the shoreline, 100 metres away. So it’s pretty special. There’s so much scenery to appreciate — it’s very luscious and green. A lot of friendly folks live on the Dolphin Coast and it’s a holiday destination for a lot of people.

On the best beach on the Dolphin Coast

My favourite place to kick off the day on the Dolphin Coast is Thompsons Beach. It’s one of the best beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. I go there with my family and my kids swim in the tidal pools. It’s pretty beautiful. We take our dogs — two little French Bulldogs — and they run all along the beach. There’s a lot to take in, and if you come in the morning to see the sunrise it’s really spectacular.


First and second rows of Thompsons Bay Beach by Gulshan Khan for Exceptional ALIEN. Third and fourth rows of Umhlanga Beach Promenade by Ana Nielsen for Exceptional ALIEN. Bottom image of dolphins courtesy of Paul Kennedy.

On one song that sums up the Dolphin Coast

The song that represents the Dolphin Coast for me is “We Dance Again” by Black Coffee. For some reason, I always play that song when I’m driving down the coast, the ocean breeze on my head. It’s really iconic, and Black Coffee is obviously an icon. That song specifically just plays in my head all the time when I miss home, when I miss my family.

‘People will chase their dreams here because this is where they see themselves bettering their lives.’

On a window vs an aisle seat

When I’m travelling by plane I’m definitely an aisle person because I like to utilise the space. Usually the space is too small between me and the next seat, so I’ll put my feet in the aisle. Aisle is where I like to sit now.

On what ubuntu means to you

Ubuntu, for me, means coming together and being one. This country has got so much diversity in it and a lot of people come here because South Africa is the land of opportunity. And people will chase their dreams here because this is where they see themselves bettering their lives and being able to put food on the table. So ubuntu is about bringing everyone together despite where they were born and what colour they are or what language they speak; unifying and doing something greater. Helping each other, not looking down on each other, embracing each other and working together.

On the Dolphin Coast in one word

If I was to describe the Dolphin Coast in one word, it would be spectacular.


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‘The diversity of South Africa is so inspiring because you get all different kinds of people.’