While Beast Mtawarira might not consider him his spiritual successor in his No 1 Springbok jersey yet, the veteran prop is hugely excited to see Lizo Gqoboka potentially making his Test debut this weekend.
The 29-year-old Gqoboka, who had an excellent Super Rugby campaign for the Bulls, is expected to be included on the bench for the Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies at Ellis Park.
And, according to his more experienced compatriot, no nicer guy could’ve been rewarded.
“Lizo has been a sensation,” said Mtawarira.
“I speak very highly of him because he is such a nice guy, one of the most humble guys I have ever met.”
Gqoboka, who only started playing professional rugby at age 19, has blossomed into an accomplished performer.
While he’s always displayed some explosive running ability, the man from Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape has transformed his technical game under the astute guidance of Daan Human at Loftus.
Some observers even opined during Super Rugby that Gqoboka was one of the best scrummers in the country.
“He is always willing to learn and I think he has been playing so well week in and week out. He really deserves his chance and it couldn’t have come to a nicer guy,” said Mtawarira.
“I think he is going to relish the opportunity to put on the Springbok jersey when it comes.”
But that doesn’t mean Mtawarira is suddenly going to relegate himself to playing second fiddle.
“There are a lot of good front rankers coming through and I think for myself it makes me better. The competition pushes me to work even harder.
“I’m super excited. For the last four years, we have been thinking about 2019 and it is obviously the big occasion this year. It is all about giving my mind, body and soul to the Springboks. The planning has really been good and hats off to Rassie and the management team for laying the plan out so early and getting the guys to buy in.”