Siya Kolisi believes the late Chester Williams “opened up doors” for future Springbok generations. South Africa will wear World Cup winner Williams’ image on their jerseys for Saturday’s mouthwatering clash with New Zealand in Yokohama.
Former Springboks wing Williams died from a heart attack at the age of 49 on September 6. Williams was the only non-white 1995 World Cup winner in a tournament that proved to be transformational for the South African hosts.
Kolisi could perhaps never have become South Africa’s first black captain without trailblazers like Williams, and the 28-year-old will once again draw inspiration from his role model in Saturday’s Pool B opener.
“I was very young when he played and never got to see him play,” said Kolisi. “I was one when South Africa won the World Cup. But for us, 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 of our shirts as well against Australia.
“With Chester, I don’t think it’s any different. He is really inspirational to all of us as a team. 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.”
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South African World Cup winners James Small, Ruben Kruger and Joost van der Westhuizen have all died young, with Williams the latest to do so. Any match against the All Blacks would be laden with emotion, but in the wake of Williams’ death, Saturday’s drama in Yokohama could hit new heights.
Kolisi believes South Africa have earned New Zealand’s respect amid their resurgence under boss Rassie Erasmus – but has now challenged his team-mates to perform in such a way as to retain that regard.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 19, 2019
“It’s a rivalry that has been going since I was a kid. I remember watching when I was younger, and it’s been going on for a couple of years,” said Kolisi.
“They were quite dominant before the past two years, and then we had to fight back as a team to make sure that we got a little of the respect back. We are in a good place at the moment and the rivalry is the best it’s been in a while, so I’m looking forward to the game.
“We’ve worked hard and done nothing different. We will give them the respect they deserve, but all that we can do and sort out is obviously ourselves.”
– Press Association
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