Chester Williams. File photo: ANA/Michael Sherman

CAPE TOWN - South Africa has lost "a sport legend, a mentor and a guiding light" with the death of former Springbok rugby wing Chester Williams, Parliament's select committee on education and technology, sports, and arts and culture said on Saturday.

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

The committee was saddened by the death of the former Springbok star, committee chairperson Mamagase Elleck Nchabeleng said in a statement.

The wing of the 1995 Rugby World Cup champions played 27 test matches for the Springboks. The test matches spanned from 1993 to 2000 where he scored 14 tries. 

He moved to the University of the Western Cape in his rugby career where he coached the university's rugby team that won the 2017 Varsity Shield.

"With the support of the former and first president of the Republic of South Africa Mr Nelson Mandela, Chester Williams was part of the team that united a divided nation. In the words of the former president, 'sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. 

Sport can create hope where there was only despair'. Mr Chester Williams will always be remembered for his contribution through rugby in building and inspiring the South African nation," Nchabeleng said.

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

"We have lost a sport legend, a mentor and a guiding light." The loss of Chester reverberates through the country, and his legacy will live on through many people he inspired. The committee extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Williams," Nchabeleng said.

African News Agency