Mtyanda idolised Pavarotti, not Bok stars like Matfield
In recent weeks the Southern Kings have been reaching the high notes on and off the field thanks to the deep baritone voice and dominant play of their colossal lock Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda.
While Mtyanda brings extra grunt to the Kings on the field, he also boasts a golden voice that has made him a much sought-after singer at weddings.
The giant 1.99m lock does not fit the stereotype when you think of marauding rugby forwards.
Instead of having Springbok lock Victor Matfield as his role model, Mtyanda idolised the famous Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti when he was growing up.
But it is rugby for which he is best known and Mtyanda came on from the bench to replace Irne Herbst in the 71st minute when the Kings scored a famous win over the Sharks two weeks ago.
“With me rugby came at a late stage when I was at school,” the 31-year-old said.
“There was no rugby at Cowan High School in New Brighton, so I had to go to Ithembelihle High School to play my rugby. From there the game just grew on me.
“When I was in grade 11, some of my school mates were saying they wanted to be like Springbok Victor Matfield and things like that.
“I would see someone and just say they play good rugby.
“I did not have any rugby role models. I was singing baritone very seriously at the time and I studied music at Cowan High School.
“I was a singer before so I did not aspire to be a rugby player because I was somebody who liked singing.
“I studied opera and loved it a lot. I still sing at the weddings of my friends when I get invited. One day it would be great to continue with my singing and if I get an opportunity I would definitely grab it.
“I idolised Pavarotti. He was amazing,” Mtyanda said. The jovial lock started his career coming through the youth ranks at the Mighty Elephants (now EP Kings) and made his debut for them in the 2006 Vodacom Cup competition against Western Province.
He joined the Golden Lions later the same year, where he represented their U21 team.
Mtyanda made four appearances for them in the 2007 Vodacom Cup and also represented UJ in the SOUTH African playmaker Peter Grant kicked and guided the Western Force to a morale-boosting 40-26 win over the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby in Brisbane yesterday.
Grant, the former Springbok and Western Stormers fly-half, kicked seven from seven with three conversions and four penalty goals as the Force put behind damaging uncertainty over their future to all but end the Reds’ remote finals hopes.
Both sides scored four tries each, but it was the 32-year-old Grant’s steady goalkicking which proved the difference as the Force won for the third straight time against the disappointing Reds. 2008 Varsity Cup, but failed to break into the first team.
He joined the SWD Eagles at the start of 2009, and he quickly established himself as a regular, making more than 50 appearances for the George-based union.
In 2013, he joined the Pumas prior to the start of the Currie Cup First Division season that year.
He was also in a South Africa President’s XV team
The Force still don’t know if they will be playing in next year’s competition given the continuing uncertainty with the Australian Rugby Union still to decide on which of its five teams to cull.
Queensland looked set to go on to victory after Wallaby skipper and hooker Stephen Moore scored his second try for the Reds to lead 26-21 with 20 minutes left.
But the Force refused to give in and rattled off 19 unanswered points to win comfortably.
“We were disappointed with the effort we put in last week against the Otago Highlanders (losing 55-6 at home) so we needed to bring that back to our game and we that played in the 2013 IRB Tbilisi Cup and won the tournament after winning all three matches.
“I love carries and lineouts and most of the time I like tackling people. So if someone comes at me I love tackling them and I like the physicality of the game,” he said.
Mtyanda said he had seen big changes in EP Rugby since he made his debut for the Mighty Elephants at the old EPRU Stadium. did that in the second half,” skipper Matt Hodgson said. “With everything that is going on it is tough to turn out every week, but I’m just proud of the boys.”
Once again the Reds were their own worst enemy, with two yellow cards in the second half, and their loss dropped them to fourth place in the mediocre Australian conference.
The Reds’ indiscipline has cost them 12 yellow cards this season, more than any other team in Super Rugby.
Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau came off the bench to seal the win for the Force with his 70th-minute try off the back of a rolling maul. – AFP
“Back then my coach was Oersond Gorgonzola. At that time it was more about just wanting to play. You were young and you just wanted to be seen. The franchise was struggling and there was no money and all that.
“The only thing the coach told us was if you play good rugby you will be seen and get another contract at another place. We wanted to get recognition.”
Mtyanda said it would be a big blow for rugby in the Eastern Cape if the Kings were cut from Super Rugby next year.
“It is terrible. But it has to be said that at this stage it is not fixed that it is going to happen. There is the possibility that the Kings might stay.
“As far as I am concerned it would be a great loss because look at what is happening now. The Kings have been winning and everyone is buying into the idea of having a franchise here.
“So if it goes it will be a big loss because it is just starting to take off now.”
One of the people who played a big role in Mtyanda’s development is Theo Pieterse, who was the heart and soul of rugby at Ithembelihle for many years.
“An interesting story about Giant is that he was at Cowan High and one day they came to play us. I saw this huge man playing front ranker,” Pieterse said.
“I saw the potential and roped him in and taught him all the tricks and the rest is history.”
Before his call-up to the Kings’ Super Rugby team, Mtyanda captained the EP Kings when they played Western Province in front of 10 000 fans at the Wolfson Stadium in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
“I really enjoyed that day and there was an amazing vibe at the Wolfson Stadium.
“The SuperSport Challenge is an amazing competition. The crowds are coming and players can get recognition to play at a higher level.”
Mtyanda arrived in Port Elizabeth on trial from the Sharks earlier in the season to bolster the Kings pack.
When he arrived, Kings forwards coach Barend Pieterse said: “I was standing next to Lubabalo today and I can see why they call him Giant. The one thing we need in the team is some grunt.”
The Kings will be hoping that Giant continues to stand tall for his team in their remaining four Super Rugby matches.