Chester Williams

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Chester Williams
Chester Williams 2018.jpg
Chester Williams in 2018
Birth nameChester Mornay Williams
Date of birth(1970-08-08)8 August 1970
Place of birth Paarl, South Africa
Date of death6 September 2019(2019-09-06) (aged 49)
Place of deathSouth Africa
Weight84 kg (13 st 3 lb)
Rugby union career
Position(s) Wing
Provincial / State sides
Western Province
Golden Lions
63 -
Super Rugby
1999–2000 Cats - -
National team(s)
1993–2000 South Africa 27 (70)
National sevens team(s)
1993–1998 South Africa
Teams coached
South Africa 7's
Mpumalanga Pumas
RCM Timişoara

Chester Mornay Williams (8 August 1970 – 6 September 2019) [1] was a South African rugby union rugby player. He played as a winger for the South Africa national rugby union team (Springboks) from 1993 to 2000, most notably for the team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in South Africa. He was the only person of colour on the team. During the tournament he scored four tries for South Africa in its quarter-final match and also appeared in the semi-final and final. Domestically he played rugby for the Western Province in the Currie Cup.

South Africa national rugby union team National sports team

The South Africa national rugby union team, commonly known as the Springboks or colloquially the Boks, is governed by the South African Rugby Union. The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys with white shorts, and their emblems are the Springbok and the King Protea. The team has been representing South Africa in international rugby union since 30 July 1891, when they played their first test match against a British Isles touring team.

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the third Rugby World Cup. It was hosted and won by South Africa, and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country.

Western Province (rugby team) rugby union team in South Africa

Western Province is a South African rugby union team based in Newlands, Cape Town, that participates in the annual Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup tournaments. Founded in 1883, the team has won multiple titles, a record of 34 Currie Cup titles including the inaugural competition, the Vodacom Cup, the Absa Nite Series, and the Lion Cup. The club has the most supporters of any Currie Cup team.


After retiring, Williams pursued a career in coaching, including a spell with the South Africa national rugby sevens team, the Uganda national rugby union team, and the University of the Western Cape. He was portrayed by McNeil Hendricks in the 2009 Clint Eastwood film Invictus , a biographical sports drama film about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and he also helped to coach Matt Damon and other actors for the rugby scenes used in the film. Williams died from a suspected heart attack on 6 September 2019 at the age of 49.

The South African national rugby sevens team competes in the World Rugby Sevens Series, the Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Summer Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games.

Uganda national rugby union team

The Uganda national rugby union team are a national sporting side of Uganda, representing them at rugby union. Rugby union was introduced by the British during colonial rule and Uganda played their first international game against Kenya in 1958. They have not yet qualified for the Rugby World Cup.

University of the Western Cape university in South Africa

The University of the Western Cape (UDUBS) is a public university located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. The University of the Western Cape has a history of creative struggle against oppression, discrimination and disadvantage. Among academic institutions it has been in the vanguard of South Africa's historic change, playing a distinctive academic role in helping to build an equitable and dynamic nation. UWC's key concerns with access, equity and quality in higher education arise from extensive practical engagement in helping the historically marginalised participate fully in the life of the nation. The university was established in 1960 by the South African government as a university for Coloured people only. Other universities near Cape Town are the University of Cape Town, and the Stellenbosch University. The establishing of UWC was a direct effect of the Extension of University Education Act, 1959. This law accomplished the segregation of higher education in South Africa. Coloured students were only allowed at a few non-white universities. In this period, other "ethnical" universities, such as the University of Zululand and the University of the North, were founded as well. Since well before the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, it has been an integrated and multiracial institution.

Playing career

Williams is best known as the star winger of the South Africa national Springbok team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup against New Zealand and was nicknamed "The Black Pearl". [2] Williams was selected in the initial squad, but had to withdraw due to injury. He was later called back into the squad and played in the quarter final, scoring four tries, [2] followed by the semi-final and the final against New Zealand, which South Africa won 15–12. [3]

New Zealand national rugby union team mens rugby union team of New Zealand

The New Zealand national rugby union team, called the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men's rugby union, which is known as the country's national sport. The team has won the last two Rugby World Cups, in 2011 and 2015 as well as the inaugural tournament in 1987.

Williams was 1.74 metres (5 feet 9 inches) tall with a playing weight of 84 kilograms (185 lb). He was the first non-white player to be included in the Springboks squad since Errol Tobias and his uncle Avril Williams in the early 1980s. [4] The selection of non-white players was not common in South Africa before 1992 because of the country's policy of apartheid, and there were separate governing bodies for whites, blacks, and coloureds. [5]

Errol George Tobias is a former South African rugby union footballer, and the first black man to play in a test match for the South African national side. He gained six caps between 1981 and 1984 when the country was still following the policy of apartheid. Tobias's selection paved the way for other black players to be added to the national team: first Avril Williams, and later, Avril's nephew, Chester Williams. Of his 21 games for the Springboks, six were tests.

Avril Percy Williams is a former rugby union wing who was the second black man to play for South Africa. He gained two caps in June 1984, both against England. His nephew Chester Williams later played for the Springboks too.

Apartheid System of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which encouraged state repression of Black African, Coloured, and Asian South Africans for the benefit of the nation's minority white population. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.

He made his debut for the Springboks at the age of 23 against Argentina on 13 November 1993 in Buenos Aires, a game that the Springboks went on to win 52–23 and in which he also scored a try. Williams was on the Springboks team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, notably scoring four tries against Western Samoa in the quarter finals. His Boks career, hampered by knee injuries in 1996 and 1997, ended with a 23–13 win against Wales on 26 November 2000 in Cardiff. In total he played 27 games for the Springboks, scoring 14 tries and a total of 70 points. [6] His honours included a Currie Cup win in 1999, with the Golden Lions, [2] a Tri-Nations title in 1998 (albeit that he only made two short appearances as substitute) [7] and the World Cup win in 1995. [2]

Argentina national rugby union team national sports team

The Argentina national rugby team is organised by the Argentine Rugby Union. Nicknamed the Pumas, they play in sky blue and white jerseys,

Buenos Aires Place in Argentina

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the South American continent's southeastern coast. "Buenos Aires" can be translated as "fair winds" or "good airs", but the former was the meaning intended by the founders in the 16th century, by the use of the original name "Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre". The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas, with a population of around 15.6 million.

Wales national rugby union team Nation rugby team from Wales

The Wales national rugby union team represents Wales in international rugby union. Its governing body, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), was established in 1881, the same year that Wales played their first international against England. The team plays its home matches at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which replaced Cardiff Arms Park as the national stadium of Wales in 1999.

Domestically, Williams played rugby with the Western Province (rugby team), appearing 63 times between 1991 and 1998, wearing shirt number 11. He then went on to win the Currie Cup with the Golden Lions in 1999. [2]

Currie Cup South Africas premier domestic rugby union competition

The Currie Cup tournament is South Africa's premier domestic rugby union competition, played each winter and spring, featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces. Although it is the premier domestic competition, South African teams also compete in the international Super Rugby and Pro14 competitions.

Golden Lions rugby union club

The Golden Lions is a rugby team based in Johannesburg, South Africa who compete in the annual Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup. The team is governed by the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU), and was originally known as Transvaal, before changes to the political landscape in South Africa forced a name change to the Gauteng Lions, before again being changed to the Golden Lions. The GLRU also operate a side in the Super Rugby competition, the Lions, who also draw players from Griquas.


In 2002, Williams released his controversial authorised biography, simply titled "Chester", in which he claimed that he was shunned by some of his team mates in the 1995 Springbok squad and was called racist names by James Small, [8] though he later clarified, "When we were together as a team, the team-spirit was good. We partied together, we had fun together, we stuck by one another. Those other things happened while we were playing against one another in the Currie Cup or domestic competitions. But that's in the past now. We have all moved on and everybody's happy." [9]

Clint Eastwood directed Invictus , which is about the 1995 Rugby World Cup and how it helped South Africa heal after years of apartheid. It features many scenes involving Chester, portrayed by McNeil Hendricks, including his face on the side of an SAA aeroplane. It also showed several scenes showing black children in South Africa idolising him, although author John Carlin has questioned the accuracy of this as Williams in fact identified as coloured rather than black. Carlin also wrote that during the team's visit to a township, Mark Andrews had attracted more attention than Williams as he was able to speak Xhosa. [10] Williams himself worked as one of the film's rugby coaches, alongside Dubai-based coach Rudolf de Wee, a childhood friend whom he recruited to the film. Williams and de Wee worked with the actors, including Matt Damon, in recreating the games depicted in the film. [11]

Williams was selected to carry the Olympic torch on behalf of South Africa on two occasions, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. [12]

In 2010, Williams completed the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, joining several former Springbok Rugby players who have also taken on the rugged challenge of the Untamed African MTB Race. [13]

Williams died on 6 September 2019, at the age of 49, from a suspected heart attack. [14] He was the fourth player from the 1995 world-cup-winning side to die, after Ruben Kruger, Joost van der Westhuizen, and James Small, the last having died two months before Williams. [15]

Coaching career

In 2001 Williams was selected as the coach of the South African sevens team that won bronze at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and ended runners up in the World Sevens Series. He remained sevens coach until 2003. [16]

Despite having almost no experience at coaching the fifteen-man code at any senior level, Williams was mentioned as one of the possible successors to Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli after he resigned in 2003, but the job was given to Jake White in 2004. [13] He became coach of the Cats Super 12 team instead. He remained coach until July 2005 when he was fired after a series of poor results, when the Cats finished next-to-last in the 2005 super 12, achieving only one victory. However, in 2006, he was brought back into the South African coaching ranks as the head coach of the national "A" side (a developmental side for the Boks). [17] Also in 2006, he spent a successful few months as coach of the Uganda national rugby union team, the Cranes. [18]

He was named as the new coach of the Pumas, the team representing Mpumalanga in the Currie Cup, on 7 September 2006. He signed a two-year deal with the team, effective 1 October 2006, but resigned as coach in mid-2007. When White stepped down as the national coach in 2008, Williams was again in the running to replace him, but the job instead went to Peter de Villiers. [13]

Williams lastly served as head coach of University of the Western Cape in Varsity Rugby. Under his leadership UWC won the 2017 Varsity Shield competition. [19]

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  1. "Springbok legend Chester Williams dies". Spiort24. News24. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "WP Rugby pay tribute to 'icon' Chester Williams". Sport24 . 7 September 2019.
  3. Daniel Schofield (6 September 2019). "Former South Africa winger and 1995 World Cup winner Chester Williams dies, aged 49". Daily Telegraph .
  4. Patrick McPartlin (6 September 2019). "Chester Williams, 1995 Rugby World Cup hero and former South Africa wing, dies at 49". The Scotsman .
  5. Hopkins, John (1979). Rugby. p. 20. ISBN   0-304-30299-6.
  6. "Chester Williams", ESPN
  7. "Chester SA's most famous?". Independent Online .
  8. Keohane, Mark (2002). Chester – A Biography of Courage. Don Nelson. ISBN   1-86806-209-0.
  9. "Chester Williams: Win of change". 9 December 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2013.[ dead link ]
  10. Alex von Tunzelmann (3 October 2013). "Invictus: better on Nelson Mandela than rugby". The Guardian .
  11. Melanie Swan (19 March 2010). "Man who taught Matt Damon rugby now teaches in the UAE". The National .
  12. "Chester to carry Olympic torch for SA". Sport24 . 13 May 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 Luke Daniel (6 September 2019). "Springbok legend Chester Williams dies at age 49". The South African .
  14. Jack de Menezes (6 September 2019). "Chester Williams death: South African rugby great dies of suspected heart attack, aged 49". The Independent .
  15. "Chester Williams: South Africa World Cup winner dies aged 49". BBC Sport . 6 September 2019.
  16. Grant Shub (8 December 2017). "Chester Williams chats to Sport24". Sport24 .
  17. News | Rugby News Archived 9 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. "Rugby coach Chester Williams quits". New Vision . 15 September 2006.
  19. Mariette Adams (10 April 2017). "UWC crowned Varsity Shield champs". SA Rugby Mag.