The Springboks are to pay homage to late 1995 Rugby World Cup winner Chester Williams with his image printed on their jerseys for their tournament opener against New Zealand on Saturday.
“He is really inspirational to all of us as a team,” South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said Friday of the star winger who died of a heart attack at the age of 49 earlier this month.
Williams was the only black player on the World Cup-winning side that defeated rival New Zealand 15-12 after extra time in South Africa 24 years ago.
He died less than two months after the death of James Small, another winger on the champion side.
Kolisi, the first black player to captain the Springboks, said: “We look up to the team of 1995 because we feel like they changed things for us in South Africa. We will always respect them.
“It was an era that opened up doors for us. We really appreciate all of them, and with the passing of James Small, we had him on the back as well against Australia.”
The 31-man Springbok World Cup squad has 11 black players, including Kolisi.
Current Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, who played international rugby with Williams, said the jersey tribute was appropriate in a World Cup clash against New Zealand.
“Chester didn’t like being the center of attention,” Erasmus said.
“He never bragged about his role or expected anything for it but he would have enjoyed being part of a Springbok vs. All Blacks Test match once more, I think.”