RWC #28: The Black Pearl scores four against Western Samoa

Chester Williams, South Africa’s only black player, is irrepressible in 1995 quarter-final

The 1995 Rugby World Cup is remembered not only for of the rugby but also because of what it symbolised for a post-Apartheid South Africa.

Indeed, the image of Nelson Mandela wearing a Springboks jersey and cap as he presents the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar is one which transcends sport and is famous as a significant political and cultural moment.

At the time of the tournament a huge amount was changing in South Africa, and a symbol of the new Rainbow Nation was the Boks winger Chester Williams.

Standing at just five foot nine inches Williams, known as the Black Pearl, was South Africa’s sole black player in their 1995 squad.


Williams had originally had to pull out of South Africa's squad before the tournament with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Pieter Hendriks, but Hendriks was then handed a 60-day suspension by the tournament disciplinary committee for his role in a brawl against Canada, allowing Williams to regain his place.

And when Williams finally made his World Cup bow, in the 42-14 quarter-final win over Western Samoa, he made it one to remember.

Williams ran Western Samoa ragged, running in four tries (the first man to do so for South Africa) as the Springboks reached the last four.

It was a huge moment - the Rainbow Nation’s one black player standing head and shoulders above the rest to deliver South Africa into the semi-finals.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times