Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, reacted with shock and disbelief when the news of the death of former Springbok wing and Blitzboks captain and coach Chester Williams surfaced on Friday afternoon.
Williams was a star of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup-winning squad in 1995 and one of the best wings in South African rugby history. He passed away from a heart attack in Cape Town on Friday afternoon, aged 49.
“The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health,” said Mr Alexander.
“Chester was a true pioneer in South African rugby and his performances at the World Cup in 1995, as a snapshot of his Springbok career, will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of our rugby public.
“As a member of the Springbok class of 1995, Chester was not only well-known in the rugby fraternity, but he was a much-loved South African whose influence stretched wider than just the rugby world.
“He was passionate about rugby and South Africa and as coach, at various levels, selflessly gave back to the game after he hung up his boots. He played with courage and was a beacon of light in his community and in the broader South African context.
“Chester Williams had so much more to give. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Maria, his children, family and friends during this very sad time.”
Western Province will target their third successive SA Rugby Women’s Interprovincial title, and with it a dream season, when they meet arch-rivals, Border, in the A Section final of the competition at City Park in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Xerox Golden Lions, meanwhile, will take on SWD in the B Section final, which will be played at 13h00 as a curtain-raiser to the main final, which kicks off at 15h00.
The Capetonians have been in fine form this season, winning all of their matches up to now, and they will look to finish the competition on a high note in front of their home crowd.
They will, however, face tough competition against Border – who edged their way into the final in the closing pool round – in what marks the fourth successive final between the sides, although this is the first one in Cape Town.
With a clean-sweep of wins in their five matches leading up to the final to only three wins by Border, Western Province may have a mental edge going into the clash, but the narrow margins between the sides on attack and defence in the pool stages indicate that it could be a tightly-fought affair.
The home side scored 26 tries to Border’s 22 and conceded 10 to their Eastern Cape rivals’ 11, and to spice things up even more, Western Province edged through for a narrow 22-21 victory in their pool match in Cape Town earlier this season.
In the last two finals, Western Province won by six and two points respectively, while no more than nine points separated the teams on the scoreboard in their round-robin matches in the last two seasons, meaning it could be an epic clash.
The B Section final between the Golden Lions and SWD is also expected to be gripping with the sides having been among the top contenders for the title in the last few seasons.
In fact, the two sides also met in the 2017 final, which SWD won 23-8, while the women from Johannesburg advanced to the 2018 final as well, but went down against Boland.
SA Rugby can confirm being informed by the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) that an adverse analytical finding had been detected in a sample collected from Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi in a doping test on 2 July 2019.
Dyantyi’s B-sample also tested positive and he has now been formally charged with a doping offence for multiple anabolic steroids and metabolites.
SA Rugby, the Lions Rugby Company and Dyantyi are working with SAIDS, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and all other relevant authorities on the matter and no further comment can be made at this stage
Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer was delighted on Saturday as his charges booked their place in the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand with a 39-0 victory against Kenya in the deciding match of the qualifiers at the Bosman Stadium in Brakpan.
The win marked a clean sweep for the Springbok Women in the competition and wrapped up a full-house of points from their three matches following 89-5 and 73-0 victories against Uganda and Madagascar earlier in the tournament.
The Springbok Women ran Kenya ragged early on, which saw them earn their fourth try early in the second quarter and take a 24-0 lead at the break, and they built on this is in a competitive second stanza in which they added three more tries to their tally for the 39-0 win.
In the other match, Madagascar and Uganda played to 15-15 draw in a gripping encounter, in which both teams ran hard on attack and defended with intent.
South African rugby players – men and women, schoolboys and adults – were congratulated for Saturday’s national team hat-trick by Mr Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, on Sunday.
The Springboks overcame Argentina, 24-18; the Springbok Women defeated Kenya, 39-0; and the SA Schools team beat England U18, 33-26.
“Saturday was a very satisfactory day for South African rugby,” said Mr Alexander. “We had national teams in action in Pretoria, Brakpan and Wellington – all of them in important matches and all of them came through.
“I’d like to congratulate our men and women players and our schoolboys on their successes. It’s not often that we have three national teams playing on the same day and to have them all victorious is cause for some pride.
“In particular I’d like to congratulate the Springbok Women on their qualification for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.”
The Currie Cup Premier Division – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services – is going down to the wire yet again and with only one round of the league phase left before the playoffs, five teams will be scrambling to determine how the top four finish.
Tafel Lager Griquas secured their first appearance in the semi-finals since 1998 with a good 27-23 win over DHL Western Province in Kimberley on Friday evening.
George Whitehead was the general for the men from Kimberley, while the rest of his team delivered a well-organised and physical performance as DHL Western Province made a number of handling errors and struggled in the scrum. The full match report and scorers can be found here.
On Saturday, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs had to dig deep, but in the end they had too much fuel in the tank as they outlasted the Phakisa Pumas by 43-37 in a high-scoring match in Nelspruit.
The Springbok training squad of 36 players assembled in Bloemfontein on Sunday for a four-day Rugby World Cup camp in Bloemfontein as part of the Boks’ preparations for the global tournament which starts next month in Japan.
The group consists of players who were part of the Springboks’ recent successful Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign and the Farewell Test against Argentina in Pretoria.
The camp is designed to refocus the group on the Rugby World Cup campaign. The announcement of the 31-man squad takes place on Monday, 26 August, at 15h00 in Johannesburg.
Apart from a few team building exercises, the Springbok coaches and conditioning staff will put the training squad through some field sessions and a series of technical activities as the Boks continue to refine their plan for Japan.
Four players who were part of the match-23 that played against Argentina in Pretoria on Saturday, were released back to their provinces for Currie Cup duty.
The four are the DHL Western Province trio of Wilco Louw (prop), Scarra Ntubeni (hooker) and Dillyn Leyds (wing), as well as Vodacom Blue Bulls looseforward Marco van Staden.
Ulster looseforward Marcell Coetzee, who went off early against the Pumas with a head knock and ankle injury, did not travel to Bloemfontein.
South Africa will enjoy their victory over Argentina and their triumph in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, but Springbok captain Duane Vermeulen said these moments are all stepping stones towards the big goal of the year, the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Boks smashed Argentina 46-13 in Salta on Saturday to clinch the Southern Hemisphere crown for the first time since 2009.
But Vermeulen was quick to emphasise that their work is far from done as the Boks continue to fine tune their game before the start of the RWC next month in Japan.
The Springboks delivered a clinical attacking performance and a powerful forward display to outsmart and outmuscle their South American hosts at the high altitude venue in Salta.
“I think for us the most important thing was to work on our consistency,” was the response from the Bok skipper immediately after the game.
“We started the Castle Lager Rugby Championship working on executing our plans, and in a way we are happy with our performance but there are still a few things to work on.
“It’s a great feeling for us to walk away with the title, but in the end it’s a stepping stone for us going into the World Cup.”
The opening day of the SA Rugby Under-18 International Series delivered some cracking rugby at Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch on Friday, with the SA Schools, Argentina and France scoring hard-fought wins over Wales, England and SA Schools A respectively.
The SA Schools team delivered a 23-13 over the Welsh (match report here), while Argentina outplayed England 29-19 in their first appearance of the Series, now in its tenth year.
In the opening match of the series, the French team had too much attacking prowess for the SA Schools A side, winning 43-19 (match report here).
SA Schools A coach, Phiwe Nomlomo said their slow start cost them. “We did not start well at all,” he said. “We possibly took too long to get into the game and that cost us in the end.”
The coach remained positive that they can turn their fortunes around for their next match against Wales on Tuesday.
“Some things worked well for us. We looked good with ball in hand, our loose forwards were especially monstrous with ball in hand. We will try and get them into the game a bit more next time around.”