Chester to be given state funeral at Newlands
Former Springbok winger Chester Williams will have a state funeral at Newlands on Saturday‚ public works minister Patricia de Lille said.
Speaking at his memorial service at the University of the Western Cape on Wednesday, she also reminisced about the player’s love for “potjiekos” and braaing.
The Bok hero, 49, died at his Cape Town home on Friday after suffering a heart attack.
Heavily built and tough on the field‚ the 1995 World Cupwinning player was remembered as much for his generosity and infectious smile as for his mentoring and moral guidance.
He was coach of the university’s rugby team and guided them from the second-tier Varsity Shield into the top-tier Varsity Cup competition.
“Chester’s departure came at the wrong time‚” UWC director of sport Mandla Gagayi said.
“It came at a time when this country needed role models like him to speak sense to men to deal with ourselves so we can end gender-based violence.
“Many people saw Chester Williams as a rugby legend and an achiever‚ but for us at UWC sport‚ Chester was just a simple guy with a big heart.
“All that Chester wanted was to see everyone around him succeed.
“His interest in our lives‚ whether it was a simple conversation or a joke with a security guard or a cleaner‚ an administrator or a student‚ to him was important.
“Everyone deserved to be happy.”
Francois Pienaar‚ who led the Boks in 1995‚ also heaped praise on Williams.
“Chester was never a rabblerouser. He was always the first at training and one of the last to leave.
“He was a team man and deeply loved the game of rugby.
“We need to celebrate his life but also to commiserate with his family.”
Breyton Paulse‚ who idolised Williams as a young player‚ and followed him into the Bok team to become a celebrated wing in his own right‚ also praised his contribution.
“No-one will forget what he and the 1995 team did for unity in this country‚” Paulse said.
“It was a very important time in our country and Chester was vital.
“Not because he was a player of colour but because everyone loved him because they could relate to him.
“He was a great person who had time for his neighbour and for kids.
“I learnt so much from him and I will carry some of those characteristics with me through life because there are some things money can’t buy.”
De Lille‚ who spoke warmly of Williams’ love for his children – Ryan‚ Chloe and Matthew – passed on a message from President Cyril Ramaphosa that he would be granted an official state funeral.
“We would like to thank the president for that‚” De Lille‚ a close family friend‚ said.
“I am sad that the natural talent Chester had was not fully realised in his own country.
“Chester had to go and coach in other countries‚ Romania and Uganda.
“We were great friends and he loved making potjiekos. “We never spoke politics. “When his children were born‚ I was sad because [Nel
son] Mandela saw them first!
“I think in his short 49 years‚ he has put in so much.
“He has run a good race – on the field and off the field.
“And what I like the most about him is his concern for his community and how he gave back‚” she said.
The former Cape Town mayor‚ who is a trustee of the Chester Williams Foundation‚ said he had gone out of his way to help drug addicts.
“He used to go into an informal settlement in Paarl‚ named after him‚ and find youngsters on drugs and say‚ ‘Come and play rugby with me’.
“And he gave many of them groceries through the Chester Williams Foundation.
“To me‚ that is the greatness of the man – the fame never got to his head.”
She also spoke of Williams’ love for the music of PJ Powers.
“We used to travel together on holidays.
“We had many braais at his house and he loved her music.
“We would play it all the time and would sing together.”
Powers‚ whose song World in Union was the soundtrack of the Boks’ 1995 triumph‚ said she had remained friends with most of the team but particularly with Chester and his wife, Maria.
“Maria has requested two special songs. It’s something special‚” she said.
She then belted out her popular song, Jabulani.
Gagayi said Williams had been goal-driven and gave students bursaries and groceries through his foundation.
“In 2016‚ he informed us that in 2019 UWC would be playing in the Varsity Cup and it did.
“In his report this year‚ he told us that the UWC team would play in the Varsity Cup in 2021 and in 2022 UWC would win the Varsity Cup‚” Gagayi said.
“He has left a good legacy and it is our responsibility to ensure that his legacy will go on.”
Maria thanked Gagayi for giving her husband a job at UWC so that he could be with his family.
“All his life he had to fight to get a position in South Africa.
“It is such a sad reality‚ but it is the reality‚” she said.
“Mandla‚ you allowed him to spend the rest of his life in South Africa and raise his children‚” she told Gagayi.
“Chester‚ although he did not have a position in South Africa‚ reinvented himself somehow and made a success of it.
“He never represented South Africa as a coach but he represented UWC‚ who are our family.”
CELEBRATING A LIFE: Chester Williams’s wife, Maria, attends the memorial service for former Springbok rugby player Chester Williams at the University of the Western Cape
GOOD LEGACY: A picture in memory of Chester Williams is displayed at the service. The former rugby Springbok died at home of a heart attack on Friday
OLD FRIEND: Patricia de Lille at the memorial service
CHESTER’S FAVOURITE: PJ Powers sings during the service