SARU said Saturday it had told its selectors they could no longer pick the Zimbabwe-born prop, who has played 22 tests for South Africa, after it had received a letter from the deputy sports minister on Friday.
Mtawarira, nicknamed “Beast” by fans, is legally resident in South Africa and fulfilled the eligibility criteria of the International Rugby Board, according to SARU, but does not hold a South African passport.
The letter said that no foreign player can be selected to a national team.
Saru received the letter on Friday from deputy sports minister Gert Oosthuizen, reaffirming the government’s position that no foreign player could be selected to represent a national team.
The Zimbabwean-born Mtawarira has played 22 test matches for the Springboks since his debut in 2008.
“We have had extensive and robust conversations with government on this issue,” said Oregan Hoskins, president of Saru. “But we respect the authority of the Ministry and have instructed our selectors in that regard.”
Hoskins added Mtawarira wished to become a South African citizen as soon as possible and Saru had been assisting him in fulfilling the necessary criteria.
The South African Rugby Union will be making no further comment on the matter. Several top rugby players among them Mtawarira, Brian Mujati and Tonderai Chavhanga have switched allegiance to South Africa.
In January Mtawarira once told a Durban based newspaper:“I am a South African at heart. I love this country. It has become my home. It is everything to me.”
The 24 year-old Zimbabwean had been playing for the Springboks over the last two years travelling around the world with the team. He had put up splendid performances for both the Springboks and his Durban-based club side the Sharks.
Mtawarira became a household name in South African rugby after he was snapped by the Sharks Academy after graduating from PeterHouse College in Marondera.
Mtawarira said in January he hoped God would see him through his current troubles. “The good lord placed me on this earth for a reason. He has a great plan for my future. I am at peace and will always be an ambassador for Jesus Christ.” Radio VOP/The Zimbabwean