Chester Williams was a symbol of peace and hope and nation-building, and a wonderful inspiration to young black kids in 1995. File picture: AP Photo/Ross Setford
There are so many iconic images and moments attached to the Springboks winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Our late and beloved president Nelson Mandela wearing his No6 Bok green-and-gold jersey is the standout one.

And yet, if you allow your mind to travel back to 1995, or page through scrapbooks of that year, you will find Chester Williams at the very heart of almost every single image and moment of those amazing few weeks for our country.

That is how loved and cherished Chester was, and that is why there was such an outpouring of shock and grief after his sudden death on Friday at the age of just 49.

Chester was far, far more than just the only black player in that Bok squad of ’95. He was a symbol of peace and hope, of reconciliation and nation-building, and a wonderful inspiration to young black kids.

Let’s just highlight two special Chester moments in the World Cup final against New Zealand.

The first was of him, during the team introductions, taking Mandela’s hand in both hands and giving him that warm Chester smile as the crowd erupted with joy.

Seconds later, there was a prolonged image of him on the big screen, bathed in the warm sunshine in his No 14 jersey as he did some warm-up stretching routines waiting for the All Blacks to kick off. Once again the crowd erupted.

“Chessie”, as he was known, was a folk hero among all South African rugby fans, not just at Newlands in the blue-and-white hoops of Western Province.

On the field of play, Chester was a beautifully balanced runner with the ball in his hands, an elegant example of classic wing play. Off the field, he was one of the ­truest gentlemen of the game.

Now he has left us, just a few weeks after the death of his fellow Bok wing, James Small. In these deeply troubling times for our country, may the memory of Chester Williams fill our hearts with hope, just like he did in 1995.