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Chester Williams

Chester Williams

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NationSouth Africa
BornPaarl, August 8, 1970
Internationals27 caps between 1993 and 2000
InductedEngland v South Africa (November 18, 2006)

In the autumn of 1995 Twickenham was to prove an important postscript in South Africa’s re-emergence as a major force in world rugby.

When the Springboks squad arrived on these shores that November they did so as the reigning World Champions. Their memorable triumph in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final – when they had beaten favourites New Zealand in an emotional final at a packed Ellis Park in Johannesburg – was still fresh in the mind.

They had gone through the six matches of the tournament unbeaten, but during their storming of the world that summer there had been one notable absentee from their list of scalps – England.

By the time they landed in England their unbeaten run in 1995 had been stretched to nine games. And among their number was someone regarded as one of the most lethal finishers in the game. That someone was Chester Williams.

No one could have been more hungry for success at Twickenham, England’s own back yard. As Williams put it in his acclaimed autobiography ‘Chester’, “[Beating] England in London would be like the dessert after the main course [the World Cup].”

South Africa were the top dogs. They commanded respect, or should have done. Strangely, when they were slighted, it was a South African who did it. Mike Catt, the England fly half who was born in Port Elizabeth, suggested Francois Pienaar, the South Africa captain, was a limited player and an average international.

Kitch Christie, the South Africa coach, was appalled. He called Catt’s comments a disgrace and said England would pay for them. Williams said later in his autobiography: “It was not the wisest of comments [for Catt] to make. Kitch fired up the guys and got a bit extra out of them at training that week.

“It had been a long season, an emotionally draining one and, physically, the players had taken a beating. If some of the guys needed a spark, Mike Catt gave it to them.”

And the Springboks gave it to England on a day that was supposed to have seen the home side celebrating the opening of the revamped 78,000-seater stadium.

Williams made it a memorable afternoon for every South African fan. Indeed had it not been for referee Jim Fleming not seeing that the winger had touched down in the first half, Williams might well have been credited with a hat-trick of tries. Video replays showed that the ball had been grounded.

But there was no doubt surrounding the second touchdown by the Western Province winger, who pounced on a wild Will Carling pass and hacked ahead to score.

After 66 minutes Williams struck again to put the game beyond doubt, this time chasing up an Andre Joubert chip. Phil de Glanville’s try two minutes from the close could not subdue the celebrating World Champions in a resounding 24-14 victory. They were indubitably the best in the world and Williams had underlined the clinical finishing that marked him out as one of the top wingers in the world.

Sadly, Williams’ career was disrupted by injury, but his record speaks for itself. In 27 Tests for South Africa he scored 14 tries, a strike record that puts him up there among the best in the game.

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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