Chester Williams carried the South African flag ahead of the Springboks test against France in 2017. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Chester Williams carried the South African flag ahead of the Springboks test against France in 2017. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

South Africa mourns the Springboks 'Black Pearl'

By Mike Greenaway and Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Sep 7, 2019

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DURBAN – South Africa is mourning after a heart attack yesterday claimed the life of Chester Williams, another Springbok rugby star of the 1995 World Cup triumph to perish way before his time.

Williams, just 49, collapsed yesterday with chest pains after a gym session in Cape Town. He was taken to hospital but died soon after arrival.

Of the Springbok team that beat the All Blacks to win the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995, four members have died. Coach Kitch Christie succumbed to cancer in 1996, flank Ruben Kruger died of a brain tumour, Joost van der Westhuizen was taken by Motor Neuron Disease, James Small died from natural causes two months ago and now Williams has left us.

Williams, nicknamed the “Black Pearl”, played 27 Tests for the Boks between 1993 and 2000, scoring 14 tries and including a hat trick against Samoa in the ’95 campaign.

CEO of SA Rugby Legends Association, Stefan Terblanche, said last night that “Chester wasn’t just a legendary winger and World Cup champ, he was a warm, kind-hearted gentleman who gave his all, both on and off the field. Those of us who knew him are incredibly saddened at his passing. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time. Chester will be remembered very fondly by us and by his many fans. The world is a poorer place without him.”

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said: “Chester was a true pioneer in South African rugby and his performances at the World Cup in 1995, as a snapshot of his Springbok career, will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of our rugby public.

“As a member of the Springbok class of 1995, Chester was not only well-known in the rugby fraternity, but he was a much-loved South African whose influence stretched wider than just the rugby world.”

Williams’s teammates were highly emotional in their tributes to their fallen comrade.

Kobus Wiese, a member of the Bok second row in ’95, said: “It is a very sad and tragic day. We said goodbye to James (Small) just the other day, and now it is Chessie ... a talented player, an important member of our rugby family, a loving father who adored his children, a man loved by the community.

“Our hearts are bleeding and filled with sadness as we say goodbye to our brother.”

Breyton Paulse, another former Springbok wing, said: “I am lost for words. RIP pal... We have lost an icon.”

Bok great Rob Louw said Williams was “one of the greats”, while cricketing legend Jacques Kallis asked for South Africa to “join him in prayer for a son of South Africa”.

Another cricketer, Herschelle Gibbs, said: “Sad, sad news about Chessie. RIP brotherman. Thoughts with Maria and the kids.”

Williams was born and raised in Paarl. He played for Western Province and the Lions in a provincial career that stretched from 1991 to 2000.

@MikeGreenaway67 and Tanya Waterworth

Independent on Saturday

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