Tributes for Chester

Chester Williams has been hailed as a trailblazer and transformation pioneer.

09 September 2019 | Sports

Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) chief administrator Freddy Mwiya has hailed Bok winger Chester Williams as a player who changed the way people look at rugby.

Williams was the only black player who was part of the 1995 Rugby World Cup Bok team, who against all odds lifted the trophy on home soil.

He died of a suspected heart attack on Friday at the age of 49.

Williams played as a winger for the Boks from 1993 to 2000. He was the only player of colour in the side that defeated rivals New Zealand 15-12 at Ellis Park stadium in the final of the 1995 World Cup. The Springbok team was the sole domain of whites during the apartheid era until 1981.

“On behalf of the NSC, and the sporting family in Namibia, we convey our deepest condolences to the sporting fraternity in South Africa, specifically to the rugby family, for the loss of one of the first black rugby players of the Springboks.

“In the spirit of transformation in sport, he remains a living testimony of the road to transformation. Therefore, this loss is very sad news to us all,” Mwiya said. “Let his legacy shed more light on other new players, who will be joining rugby, as we continue to unite humanities through sport.”

Former Namibian rugby player Ronaldo Pedro, who played between 1999 and 2003, and who is now a sevens rugby coach, sent his condolences to Williams' family, saying he was indeed a pioneer of the game that many have come to love.

“I never got the chance to play against him, but he changed the dynamics in rugby and was indeed our hero, because we all looked up to him. He was an inspiration, as he was the only black (Springbok) player in a sport that was dominated by whites back then,” Pedro said. Former Namibian captain Jacques Burger, who played for the national team from 2004 to 2015, also tweeted: “Rest in peace, you legend.”

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa also offered his sincerest condolences to the family, friends, former teammates and teams with whom Williams shared his life.

“Chester Williams death at this tender age leaves all South Africans bereft of a rugby hero and national role model, who still had a great deal to offer his sport and his country,” Ramaphosa said.

“We will miss the humility and joy of life with which Chester conducted himself during an illustrious career that inspired hundreds of thousands of South African children, who had previously been excluded from rugby, to take up the game.

“We salute him for the extraordinary achievements he recorded in a life that has sadly ended prematurely,” Ramaphosa said.

Nicknamed the 'Black Pearl', Williams was born in Paarl on 8 August 1970. He played for DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions during his provincial career, which stretched from 1991 to 2000. He also had two seasons of Vodacom Super Rugby with the Cats. Williams made his Springbok debut against Argentina in 1993 and played 27 Tests for South Africa, until his last Test against Wales in 2000. He scored 14 Test tries in the process. In total, he played 47 matches in the green and gold and scored 27 tries.

In 1995, he was a member of the initial Springbok squad for the Rugby World Cup, but had to withdraw due to injury shortly before the tournament started. He was later recalled and scored four tries in the quarterfinal against Samoa.

Williams was named SA Rugby Player of the Year in 1994. Apart from lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995, Williams was also a member of the Springbok squad that won the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (then the Tri-Nations) in 1998, and he won the Currie Cup with the Xerox Golden Lions in 1999.

Blessed with speed to burn and great anticipation, sevens rugby was also a natural fit for Williams, who played in 22 tournaments for the Springbok sevens team, including the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments in 1993 and 2001. He also captained the Blitzboks at the Commonwealth Games in 1998. After his playing days, Williams turned to coaching, where he was involved at various levels of the game, including the Blitzboks, the Cats (Vodacom Super Rugby), the national teams of Uganda and Tunisia, the Phakisa Pumas (Currie Cup), and more recently the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in the FNB Varsity Cup.

Williams was also invited to be the bearer of the 2004 Olympic torch, which was on its way to Athens. As part of his legacy, Williams recently launched Chester's Lager, which will be sold during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Williams is the fifth member of the Springbok squad from 1995 to pass away, after Kitch Christie (coach), Ruben Kruger (flank), Joost van der Westhuizen (scrumhalf) and James Small (wing) died.

Williams is survived by his wife Maria and three children, Ryan and twins Matthew and Chloe.

-Additional info by NAMPA/ANA

LIMBA MUPETAMI

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