Cape Town - Legendary 1995 Rugby World Cup-winner Chester Williams talks
Super Rugby expansion, the reintroduction of the quota system and how Percy
Montgomery saved his life…
Lucani asked: Tell us about the time you spent coaching in Romania. Why did you
feel that you couldn’t grow any further as a coach in that environment?
Williams: I won back-to-back national titles with
top Romanian side Timisoara in 2012 and 2013. Prior to my arrival, the team had
last won the championship 40 years ago. While the side
was highly competitive, the fact that they were unable to qualify for the
Challenge Cup, the B-division of the Heineken Cup, swayed my decision to return
home. I now want to further develop as a coach.Angus Stormers Opperman asked: If you could coach any SA side,
which would it be and why?
Williams: I would love to coach again at a high
level within South African Rugby. As far as which team I would choose, well
that’s any easy decision: the Stormers. I love the team and province for whom I
played many games. However, I would be equally as willing to get involved and
prove myself in an environment such as the Varsity Cup. I’ve noted with
interest the high standard of competition and the impact first-time coaches
like Hanyani Shimange, for example, have made.
Silinga asked: You have also had the experience of coaching the Ugandan and
Tunisian national sides. In terms of the IRB growing the game in Africa, how
can this best be achieved?
Williams: While the IRB continues to offer such
nations support, I believe that Sevens is the most important stepping stone for
second tier countries. Sevens is the ideal medium for skills development and
offers young players the perfect opportunity to mature both physically and
mentally. The fact Sevens will feature at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is even more
of reason to fast-track the shorter game into wider parts of Africa. And once
more people are introduced to the 7-man game; I believe the transition to
15-man rugby will be that much smoother. Mihlali Qoma asked:What was it like playing
against the great Jonah Lomu? Was he the best wing you ever faced?
Williams: In terms of physicality and ball-in-hand
threat, I believe Lomu was the best wing the world ever saw. He was big, strong
and fast. The only weakness to his game was that he was, at times, slow to
react on defence when the ball was kicked in-behind him. The only way to
neutralise him on attack, as evidenced in the 1995 World Cup final, was to
starve him of possession and space. While the Hurricanes’ Julian Savea is in
the same mould as the former All Black, there will only ever be one Jonah Lomu.
asked: In terms of local wingers currently plying their trade in Super Rugby,
who have impressed you and why?
Williams: Gio Aplon impressed me when playing on
the wing last week against the Crusaders. He brings an element of flair and
excitement to the game, which I believe we don’t see enough of these days owing
to tighter defences. Another player who has caught my eye is the Lions’ Ruan
Combrinck. He has a high work-rate, possesses a strong left foot and
understands his position.
asked: How has wing play evolved, in your opinion, since you retired in 2000?
Williams: I must say that if I was a winger in the
modern game I would relish the role. The work-rate of wingers all around the
field of play has grown significantly. While defence structures have improved
since my playing days and, as such, teams are generally more conservative on
attack, there are definitely still ample opportunities for wingers to impact
the game positively. I believe the success or failure on attack comes down to
picking the right opportunities and one’s support play.Kgaugelo Mo Mathelele asked: Let’s talk Super Rugby
expansion. Does SA rugby possess sufficient depth in terms of playing personnel
to justify a sixth franchise?
I believe we have more than enough
talented players in SA. However, the Currie Cup Premier Division must act as
the stepping stone to Super Rugby… The Kings joining the Premier Division in
2014 is positive for the long-term sustainability of South African rugby.
asked: Nelson Mandela once described you as “a leader of South Africa in the
global sporting world.” In 1995, did you realise just how unifying your
presence in the team was?
Williams: It was a great honour for a man of such
wisdom and humanity to describe me in such a way. I knew that I wanted to make
myself and my people proud at the time. However, in hindsight I can see even
more clearly the symbolism my presence represented for the larger South African
asked: Your take on Saru’s decision to introduce the quota system in the
Vodacom Cup? Is it a step backwards or are not enough players of colour being
afforded equal opportunities?
Williams: There is a need for it. The reality is
that more black players should be afforded opportunities to showcase their
talents at a competitive level. While it’s still a dream of mine to one day coach
a black XV, similar to the NZ Maoris, who knows when that opportunity will
arise as there are now rarely touring sides of that kind in world rugby.
Mostert asked: Not many people know that Percy Montgomery once saved your life.
Tell us what happened…
were on a Springbok training camp in Plettenberg Bay. While I didn’t know how
to swim at the time, I decided to follow the other guys and paddle out on a
body board. As I went deeper, I lost control of the board and fell into the
water and began to panic. Luckily, Percy heard my cries for help and brought me
safely to shore. While terrifying at the time, I can now look back on the incident
Joe van Niekerk