death of Chester Williams, first player of "non-white" rugby of the Springboks

Chester Williams was the only black player on the winning team in the 1995 World Cup final against the All Blacks. His presence on the team helped to make Nelson Mandela's speech credible.

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South African left winger Chester Williams marks his team's second try on June 10 in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup against Western Samoa. Mike Umaga, lateral back of Western Samoa, is on the right. South Africa won the match 42-14 / File Photo Charles Platiau / REUTERS

Former winger Chester Williams, world champion with South Africa in 1995, died on Friday, September 6th at the age of 49, a relative told Agence France-Presse. Chester Williams was reported to have suffered a heart attack in Cape Town, where he resided and worked as a rugby coach at Western Cape University.

Chester Williams was the only black player on the winning team in the 1995 World Cup final against the All-New Zealand All Blacks (15-12) after an extra-time playoff at Ellis Park. In a portrait at World in 2015, however, the player kept a bitter memory of his passage in the South African team. "In the field, I sometimes had the right to racist insults from spectators and opponents"confided the player, also evoking the racism of his teammates.

Paragon of the "rainbow nation"

The presence of the Paarl native on the team greatly contributed to the credibility of Nelson Mandela's speech on the " Rainbow nation ", expression of this new unity of the country so celebrated after the fall of the racist regime of apartheid. "I was part of Mandela's plan and others who saw my importance to their desire to unite the country"he confided World.

Only white players had the right to be part of the Springboks during apartheid. In 1981, opening half Errol Tobias was the first black player selected for the national team.

He made his international debut in 1993 against Argentina and scored 14 tries in 27 caps over a period of eleven years. Four years after the 1995 competition, his bitterness will feed on his non-selection for the World Cup in the United Kingdom.

"Pioneer of South African rugby"

"The announcement of Chester's death is devastating and hard to believe, since he was still young and in apparent health"responded South African rugby union president Mark Alexander. "Chester was a true pioneer of South African rugby and his performances at the 1995 World Cup will remain forever etched in the hearts and minds of people", he added.

"He was passionate about rugby and South Africa, and as a coach, gave generously to the sport after his retirement. He still had so much to offer in this world. Our thoughts are with his wife, Maria, his children, his family and his friends in these difficult times. "

Chester Williams died less than two months after his former team mate James Small, the other winger of the historic 1995 team, disappeared.


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