Rugby rocked by tragic death of World Cup winner, aged 49

The rugby world has been saddened by news of Chester Williams' death. Pic: Getty

The rugby world has been rocked by the death of former South Africa international and 1995 World Cup winner Chester Williams.

Local media outlets reported that Williams, 49, died of a suspected heart attack.

Williams played 27 times for the Springboks, making his debut as a winger in 1993.

He scored a total of 14 tries for the senior team, four of them on home soil against Samoa at the 1995 tournament, which followed the country's return to international competition after decades of sanctions and anti-apartheid boycotts.

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said in a statement: "The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health.

"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.

Chester Williams was part of the Springboks' 1995 World Cup-winning side. Pic: Getty

"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."

Tributes for the Springboks legend have been pouring in from the rugby community on social media.

Williams was one the first black players to represent the national team that was dominated by white players, making him the face of the push for multi-racial reconciliation that followed Nelson Mandela's election in 1994 as the first democratic president.

At the time of his death, Williams was a coach at the University of Western Cape, according to the local SA Rugby Mag website.

With agencies