Brian Mujati bares soul: Part 1

HARARE - The Northampton Saints prop Brian Mujati didn’t answer his phone when a South African number he didn’t know, rang.

Nothing sinister in that, it’s in fact relatively standard practice for most sportspeople.

The last thing a player, who doesn’t enjoy dealing with the media in any case, wants is a pesky hack proving an irritation, and what’s worse now is that they have your number.

Well, eventually curiosity got the better of the former Lions, Stormers and Springbok prop when it rang again so he took a breath and answered.

On the other end was none other than the Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer who wanted to chat, as Mujati recalls.

“He was saying he wanted me to play for South Africa and he wanted to know if I wanted to.

“I was a bit surprised by the fact that he was wondering that, but I told him that of course I wanted to.
“He was saying that there was a perception in South Africa that I didn’t want to play for South Africa again, which was just completely untrue.

“I said: “Ja, I would like to play for South Africa” and he said he would like me to be in his plans for the 3 Tests and to play in the games (on the end of year tour of the UK).”

And keep in close contact they did, with Meyer looking to start to put together a squad he believes can win him the World Cup in 2015 in England.

Of which two tightheads, with Jannie du Plessis being the incumbent, will form an integral part of building that challenge.

After the squad announcement for the tour, intrigue grew about who this mysterious “Player 32” was in Meyer’s plans.

And with the news that du Plessis was gifted a number of extra days off to recover at home before jetting out, it became apparent that the “club” that Meyer referred to in his press conference that they were still dealing with was Mujati’s.

“I spoke to Heyneke almost every other day for about a week before he announced the team,” Mujati picks up. “And he said he would announce me in the team but they were just waiting for approval.

“They then said the approval was taking a bit long, so they weren’t going to call out my name just in case there was going to be a problem.

“Then before they were about to come here I got a text from the Team Manager (Ian Schwartz) saying things were looking a bit unlikely and they were going to get in touch with me, to let me know what was going to happen.

“And that was the last that I heard,” he states matter-of-factly.

It was an eerily familiar course of events for the man from Zimbabwe, which ultimately drew to a conclusion the international future of one of the world’s foremost tighthead props.

“That’s the same thing that happened with Peter de Villiers. I had Rassie Erasmus and De Villiers call me, he literally said I would start at the World Cup for the Boks, “I was the first-choice tighthead.
“And then they sent me a text saying “it’s looking a bit unlikely”. So I think it’s only fair to give up now.”

That’s twice in the space of one year the South African Rugby Union (Saru) have fought a noble battle for their respective coaches, in Mujati’s corner, and both times they’ve fallen foul of the sports ministry.

The issue of Mujati playing for the national team is a long and storied one. It’s grounded in the fact that nobody can represent the Springboks unless they hold a South African passport, which Mujati doesn’t.

It’s a crucial piece of legislation ultimately crafted to protect the integrity of our national teams but as always there will be exceptions or cases that warrant special attention.

Despite living well over the required period for naturalisation in South Africa he didn’t complete the process of being naturalised in the eyes of the law before moving abroad.

As first reported by Eyewitness News Sport, Saru’s latest application to the minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula, to grant Mujati a special concession to play for South Africa has been firmly denied and Mujati should seek to be naturalised if he wants to play for the Boks.

With the ministry in fact unhappy that they’d been placed in what they view as an “invidious position” by Saru, in hoping to push through his selection so close to a tour.

With such a dramatic turn of events and the effective end to his hopes of rekindling his international career how was this message conveyed to Mujati, by the sport’s governing body in South Africa, surely he was aware this decision had been taken?

“I am aware of that because I saw it on the internet, but no one has actually told me that,” he says, before reflecting.

“But that’s fair enough. I have a family now; I can’t take this chance to move to South Africa in the hope that I play rugby for the Boks.” — Eye Witness News - To be continued tommorow

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