Ch­ester to be given state fu­neral at New­lands

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - Craig Ray and Phi­lani Nombe­mbe

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

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