ZIMBABWE-BORN South Africa rugby legend Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira has embarked on plans to further his education as he seeks to pursue a career in business after recently retiring from international rugby.
Mtawarira is now pursuing a post-graduate diploma with the aim of acquiring an MBA, alongside his other business ventures.
The 34-year-old Rugby World Cup winner went back to school this week – from the comfort of his home in Durban – as the inaugural recipient of a special scholarship from Henley Business School Africa on a programme designed to help sports icons successfully transition from the change room to the boardroom.
“It went well,” said Mtawarira in an interview with the Henley Business School website after his first virtual lesson.
“There were a lot of hours of paying attention. I’ll have to work on my brain’s fitness now, for sure as we get into it.
“I was initially enrolled to study a B.Com degree in marketing before I was spotted and signed to play for the Sharks,” he remembers, “I always intended to get an academic grounding to give me a solid start to my business career.”
He was alerted to Henley by an old school friend fellow Zimbabwean, Shingi Jena, who lives in the UK, who told him about the MBA programme.
Mtawarira was busy focusing on preparing for the World Cup but made time to visit Henley Africa’s campus.
“I got introduced to Jon (Foster-Pedley, Henley Africa’s dean and director), who was very accommodating and answered all my questions. Then and there the decision was made to enrol.
“I’m planning to use the one-year postgraduate diploma in management, which I am enrolled for as my stepping stone to the global triple-accredited MBA ultimately,” Mtawarira says.
The transition from rugby to life outside the international; game has not been as difficult for Mtawarira as it is for other sports stars.
Mtawarira revealed how former South African rugby player Wahl Bartman took him under his wing in preparation for life after rugby.
“To be honest, I think the key is to plan beforehand. I was very fortunate to have met Wahl Bartmann at the Sharks who became a mentor on the field and later on when I joined his company Fidelity Security nine years ago,” he said.
“Today, I’m on the board of directors and I’m a shareholder too, so when the day came to hang up my boots for the last time, I already knew what I was walking into.”
Foster-Pedley, Henley Africa’s dean and director said the decision to award the Zimbabwean born South African rugby icon the inaugural scholarship had been an easy one to make.
“Most sports stars struggle with the transition from ‘retirement’ from what they love at an age when most of their peers are only starting to see their corporate careers take off.
“Tendai is far more astute, the opportunity to study at Henley just allows us to help him take this career in a jacket and tie to the same heights he enjoyed wearing the green and gold.”
Henley Africa’s successful pivot to seamless virtual learning before the imposition of the South African Lockdown means Mtawarira can attend lectures from his home – or even in the US next year.
He signed a one-year playing and coaching contract to play in the US Major League and left in January for Washington DC, only for the season to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I might possibly go back to Old Glory DC next year to play and to coach, we are still talking about it. This year was supposed to be my final season,” says Mtawarira, but for now though he’s focusing on his business studies.