World Cup-winning South Africa wing Chester Williams has died from a heart attack at the age of 49, South Africa Rugby has announced.
Williams was the only black player in the Springboks squad as they claimed the world title in 1995. He scored four tries against Western Samoa in the quarter-finals before tasting glory in the final win over New Zealand.
The Paarl-born player represented Western Province and Golden Lions at province level, as well as Super Rugby side the Cats.
After retiring in 2001 he coached the South African sevens team – known as the Blitzboks – and took in spells with the Ugandan and Tunisian national teams. He had most recently been working for the University of the Western Cape as head rugby coach.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander revealed his shock after hearing Williams had died in Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
“The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health,” Alexander said on springboks.rugby.
“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.”
His death comes two months after the death from a heart attack of fellow wing James Small, who also played in the 1995 final. Williams is the fifth member of that squad to die, following Small, coach Kitch Christie, scrum-half Joost Van Der Westhuizen and flanker Ruben Kruger.
He is survived by his wife Maria and three children, Ryan, Matthew and Chloe, SA Rugby said.