His younger brother, a certain big young fella named Tendai — in fact abnormally huge for a boy of his age the other kids called him “Beast”— was still a pupil at Prospect primary school in Hatfield when Brian, four years older, was already honing his skills on the rugby fields of Churchill High School in Harare.
Proceeding to Harare Sports Club after leaving school in 2000, the coaches at “Red Lions” knew at once they had pocketed an ace.
As a centre he possessed a good nose for gap and a side-step as deft as a brush.
Yet the older Mtawarira, now 28, only started playing rugby in form three after being introduced to the game by the late Churchill sports master Peter Sharples.
“Soccer had been my passion since primary school,” says Brian in an interview with IndependentSport from Durban, where he coaches at a junior school.
“Mr Sharples explained the rules in a day and placed me on the wing for the Under 16 As. It was quite a jump considering the competition at the time. After a few games I was then moved to outside centre because I could burst through.”
In 1997 Brian was a key member of the fearsome Churchill First XVs, the Bulldogs, a side that would change the landscape of Zimbabwean schoolboy rugby forever. They went unbeaten in a season that left most of us from rival schools both green with envy and hugely proud of these boys from similar backgrounds as ours.
Coached by Billy Katiyo, the side contained future Zimbabwe internationals such as Gary Kagande, Gerald Kambadza and Tyson Nyamasoka.
In 2000 Brian made the Zimbabwe Under 21 side, teaming up again with Bulldogs teammates Kagande and Kambadza and future Sables stars James Nyatanga, Ryan Dube, Gary Hewitt, Shaun Smit, Daniel Macheke, Claudio Ferreira, Dave Ali, Adam Yorke, Michael Banga, Taurayi Gusha and Shingi Chirimuta.
“Eish, Zim Under 21s was the pinnacle for me!” he says. “I played alongside very gifted players and we had an excellent coach in Godwin Murambiwa. We conquered at a time of adverse conditions. Stakeholders also tried to revive the sport through an Econet academy but it could not survive the turbulent times.”
Unlike his laaitie, who transferred from Churchill to Peterhouse College on a scholarship, Brian finished all his high schools years at Churchill.
The two only got to play in the same side for Harare Sports Club in a Sevens tournament in 2000.
Turning to his brother, the world-famous Springbok prop, Brian says:
“I could tell he was destined for big things from his focus,” he says. “He was totally immersed with rugby. Rugby was his life and he was hungry for the big stage.
“Beast has remained the same old humble chap. I am extremely humbled by his principles and conquering spirit. I have also learnt a lot from his perseverance.”
The Mtawarira boys are still very close, staying in the same city where Tendai turns out for the Durban-based franchise Sharks.
“I always look forward to the Shark Tank,” says Brian, adding of his brother: “He’s very much attached and has plans for Zim in the near future. He comes home frequently because the rest of our family is still in Zim.”
Religion is an essential part of the family.
“We keep our faith in Christ and his Grace is always upon us.”