South African Hero Chester Williams

Some of us believe we had it hard growing up and struggling along in life. In Chester Williams life struggle was an everyday occurrence as he worked hard to achieving
23 Apr 2017 15:09
South African Hero Chester Williams
Chester Williams in a South Africa-New Zealand match.

Some of us believe we had it hard growing up and struggling along in life. In Chester Williams life struggle was an everyday occurrence as he worked hard to achieving his goal in being a South African national rugby player at a time when it was perceived in South Africa that only white players could wear the famous Springbok colours.

Born Chester Mornay Williams in August 1970 in Western Province, South Africa, Chester grew up idolising his father who at the time was playing for a black rugby team because during the apartheid era in South Africa at the time whites were considered citizens of the country and had every conceivable privilege, whereas Indians and blacks had no rights and were considered second class citizens.

Things were so bad that they were not even given voting rights and could not enter cafe’s, restaurants and recreation areas which were set aside exclusively for whites only. In rugby it was just as bad as all white rugby teams were encouraged not to play against black rugby sides.

Regardless of this Williams’ father, Wilfred, faced the British Lions in 1974 in a breakaway team that was formed and he showed tremendous flair and versatility as he slotted in at fullback, centre and flanker throughout his long playing career.

Williams still dreamt of being a Springbok and to represent his beloved South Africa even though in those days it was almost impossible to become one if you were black.

It was through sheer hard work, talent and persistence that he finally got his opportunity to play for one of the top rugby club in South Africa because in the early 1990s the political climate had changed and there was a window of opportunity for people of colour to finally play club rugby and maybe even represent the formidable Springbok Rugby Team.

Standing at just 1.70 metres tall with a playing weight of around 80 kilogrammes what Williams lacked in size, he most certainly made up for in heart.

It was an extremely hard and humiliating experience for Williams at that time to even play games of rugby because he had to endure long and dusty bus rides to the field to play against the white players. Williams was forced to get changed on the bus because the changing rooms were only for white players. Even the after-game functions where you enjoyed fellowship and sportsmanship were just for white people because blacks were banned from the venues.

Williams had to train harder, be fitter, faster and more knowledgeable about the game just to get him a chance to play for his rugby club. Life was so hard that he would travel by train every day at 4am and get back at 11pm for training and that was for a punishing five or six days a week.

Finally, after all the blood, sweat and tears on the 13th of November, 1993 Chester Mornay Williams made his debut for his beloved Springbok national side at the age of 23 against Argentina in Buenos Aires and he scored his first try for the national side that day.

In total he played 27 games for the Springboks, scoring 14 tries on the wing and in the full back position. He represented his beloved country from 1993 to 2000 and won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 with the team on their home soil.

It was certainly a long and gruelling journey to get recognised for his ability as a rugby player being one of the pioneer black players to represent South Africa, but he did it and today stands tall as a national hero.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

The writer is a Fiji Sun  columnist.



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