Chester Williams, one of the many heroes of the 1995 World Cup winning team, takes on his next challenge from tomorrow when he and his University of the Western Cape (UWC) Varsity Cup team enter the competition for the first time.
Williams’ team qualified for the top tier of the competition after winning the Varsity Shield a year ago and while the former Springbok wing is excited about the challenge, he knows it’s going to be a big step up for his players.
“There’s no doubt the Cup is a much tougher competition than the Shield,” said the now 48-year-old.
“The intensity levels will be higher than what the guys experienced last year and it’s going to be a lot more physical, too... that’s probably the biggest test awaiting the boys.
“I know I’ve got the players to perform well, but it’s whether they can adapt to the pace and intensity of the players who’ve been in the competition for years that will determine how we go as a team.
“We’ve done our preparations as best we could, gone through all the statistics and done all our analysis on what it’s going to take, looked at where we have to improve and what we need to do to achieve our goals, but at the end of the day it’s going to be about those 80 minutes in each game.”
Williams has formed a tight bond with his players over the last two years and all his experience will certainly be a boost over the coming months.
He did, after all, play Test rugby, coached the SA Sevens team (at the age of just 30), the Cats, the SA 'A' team and the Pumas. He also had spells with the national teams of Uganda and Tunisia.
“Coaching these young men is certainly one of the big highlights in my career,” said Williams.
“It’s right up there, but I’ve always learnt so much wherever I’ve gone. I’ve faced many challenges on the way and grown each time.
“Technically, coaching is pretty much the same across the board and from one team to the next, and the coaching doesn’t really change.
“What is different is the way the coach does things, how he treats the players and forms relationships with them and manages them. And that’s where I believe I can add extra value.
“At this level of the game (Varsity Cup), I can help teach the guys about life and what’s needed to succeed, how they can potentially turn rugby into a livelihood and maybe one day become professionals; this is the first step towards that.
“Besides me coaching them on the field, I realise I have a greater responsibility in helping them grow as individuals, too.”
Williams said he had seen how some of the Sevens players he worked with all those 18 years ago had gone on to achieve great things in life and hoped some of his UWC players could do the same.
“Who knows what future awaits some of these men. They’ve got a massive opportunity in front of them and now need to grab it."
The 2019 edition of the Varsity Cup kicks off tomorrow.@jacq_west