Chester Williams, a key figure in South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup triumph, has died at the age of 49.
Williams was considered one of the greatest wings in Springbok history. He passed away in Cape Town on Friday following a heart attack, national governing body SA Rugby said.
Nicknamed the Black Pearl, Williams scored four tries in South Africa’s quarter-final win against Western Samoa on the road to glory at their home World Cup.
Williams was a pioneer – one of the few black players to star for South Africa in that era – and he played 27 Tests, scoring 14 tries for the Springboks.
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said in a statement: “The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) September 6, 2019
“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.
“He was passionate about rugby and South Africa and as coach, at various levels, selflessly gave back to the game after he hung up his boots. He played with courage and was a beacon of light in his community and in the broader South African context.
“Chester Williams had so much more to give. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Maria, his children, family and friends during this very sad time.”
Williams, whose honours included being named SA Rugby Player of the Year in 1994, turned his hand to coaching after retirement, leading teams including the national teams of Uganda and Tunisia.
The news of Williams’ death comes two months after fellow wing and 1995 World Cup hero James Small died, with their team-mates Ruben Kruger and Joost van der Westhuizen having already passed away.