The kid who’s following in the giant footsteps of The Beast
Sharks prop is still only 21 and has already seen Super Rugby action ... plus lots of practice against Mtawarira
Playing for the Sharks is a dream most KwaZulu-Natal-born rugby players aspire to. For young tighthead prop Khuthazani Mchunu, that dream has come true earlier than expected.
It should not come as a surprise considering the strides he has made in the Sharks age group scene. Mchunu made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks off the bench on Saturday against the Sunwolves in Singapore.
“I was one of the loud ones in class and my principal at Greytown Primary said I must take my energy out on the rugby field and from there it’s been the love for the game. I think I was seven years old at the time,” Mchunu said.
“I didn't know if I was good at the game until I was 13 when I started going to provincials. That’s when I realised I had a talent and that’s when the love grew.
“I’ve always wanted to come to the Sharks and it’s been a dream of mine to play in the black and white. Also, a large number of frontrow forwards have come through this franchise. For a young frontrower like me, you learn a lot of lessons because you’re scrumming against the likes of Beast Mtawarira.”
Mchunu may have chosen the best franchise in which to make his mark as the Sharks are not blessed with the kind of frontrow depth the Stormers have.
Also, the tightheads the Sharks have in Thomas du Toit and Coenie Oosthuizen will have to be rested and rotated because of the demands of a World Cup year.
Significantly, a World Cup year often signals the exodus of players who don’t feature in World Cup plans – and futures have to be made elsewhere.
Mchunu, whose second name is Kingdom, turns 22 on July 1 which means he still has a lot to learn as a frontrow forward. Like fine wine, frontrowers tend to get better with age but he has proven his worth at age group level for the Sharks.
He represented KwaZulu-Natal Country Districts at the 2014 Academy Week but his rugby star started to shine when he made the KwaZulu-Natal Under-18 Craven Week side when he was at Glenwood High School in Durban.
Mchunu also won a bursary to attend the Sharks Academy in 2016 after being a standout player at the Kearsney College Easter Rugby Festival in 2015. Of the five players who won bursaries that year, he is the only one who has progressed to Super Rugby.
Mchunu, who hails from the sleepy KwaZulu-Natal Midlands hamlet of Greytown, isn’t looking too far ahead but aims to stamp his scrumming authority on the SA game by the 2023 World Cup in France.
He is chuffed at being the toast of his town. “They’re extremely proud of me there. Almost every day I get messages of support and congratulations on Facebook and comments from people from Greytown saying how proud they are,” Mchunu said.
“Hopefully in the next few years when I pick up more traction I can start giving back to the community. It’s one of my goals to give back to the Greytown community and help out with the rugby development there.”