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    Chester Williams chats to Sport24

    2014-03-14 08:12
    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…

    Liza 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?

    Chester 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?

    Chester 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.

    Raymond 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?

    Chester 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?

    Chester 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.

    Sport24 asked: In terms of local wingers currently plying their trade in Super Rugby, who have impressed you and why?

    Chester 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.

    Sport24 asked: How has wing play evolved, in your opinion, since you retired in 2000?

    Chester 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?

    Chester Williams: Yes, 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.

    Sport24 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?

    Chester 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 population.

    Sport24 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?

    Chester 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.

    Herman Mostert asked: Not many people know that Percy Montgomery once saved your life. Tell us what happened…

    Chester Williams:  We 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 and laugh.

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