Chester Williams and Tinus Linee were trailblazers in South African rugby, writes former Springbok hooker JOHN ALLAN.
When I think of Chester, I also think of Tinus.
Chester and Tinus grew up together in Paarl and attended Nederburg Primary. At school, Tinus was actually regarded as a better rugby player than Chester, who moved around the backline a lot. Tinus was always a star centre.
They were like the South African version of Starsky and Hutch. Chester was flashy, with speed and guile, while Tinus did all the dirty work, especially when it came to tackling and stealing ball. Tinus was a devastating tackler.
They went on to play for Western Province together and were selected for the Springboks’ tour of Argentina in 1993, which is when I got to know them.
When it came to determining roommates on tour, management wanted to mix players up so everyone got to know each other. I used to share a room with Steve Atherton, my Sharks mate, but when Chester and Tinus were selected for the Boks, I would share a room with Chester the one week and then Tinus the next (and vice versa for Steve).
However, Chester and Tinus really wanted to room together, because they were like brothers, while Steve and I were keen to stay together too. So we used to swap room keys without telling management. The four of us still became good mates, though, as we would hang out and eat with each other.
Chester’s life changed completely after the 1995 World Cup. He hadn’t been included in the original Bok squad due to injury but when Pieter Hendriks was suspended after the Battle of Boet Erasmus, Chester got a call-up. He scored four tries in the quarter-final win against Samoa and also started against France and New Zealand in the semi-final and final respectively.
Tinus also toured with the Boks in 1994 but didn’t play for them again and finished his career with Western Province.
Chester ended up playing for the Cats and Lions towards the end of his career and went on to coach the Cats, Blitzboks and most recently the University of the Western Cape, who he helped earn promotion from the Varsity Shield to the Varsity Cup.
Chester and Tinus remained great friends, though, and I know Chester was devastated when Tinus passed away in November 2014 after suffering from motor neuron disease.
The last time I played with Chester and Tinus was for an SA Rugby Legends team against a Paarl Gym Legends team. A lot of people came to watch the game, many because they wanted to see Chester and Tinus play together again.
Chester and Tinus, and Chester in particular, were trailblazers for players of colour in South Africa and I believe that is the legacy they have left behind.
When they were first selected for the Boks, in 1993, rugby in South Africa was still regarded by many as a white sport but they proved that wasn’t the case and that players of colour could excel at the top levels of the game. They gave hope to so many players of colour.
They were both true gentlemen, too, on and off the field. Tinus would smash someone in a tackle and then help them off the ground, while Chester would run rings around you and then give you a high five afterwards!
I doff my hat to both of them! May you rest in peace.
– John Allan’s rugby tales are brought to you by Cashback World.