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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chester Williams’ Springboks legacy lives on through Kurt-Lee Arendse

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Kurt-Lee Arendse paid tribute to one of his mentors, the late former Springbok wing Chester Williams, who opened some rugby doors for him, after the speedster was included in the World Cup squad for France 2023.

Williams, who won the World Cup in 1995 with South Africa, was the coach at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and gave Arendse a shot in the 2019 Varsity Cup and the Paarl-born speedster grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

And now he is set to follow in the footsteps of his former mentor by representing the Boks in a World Cup after Arendse was named as part of the 33-man squad to defend the title.

Arendse (27) is a product of Paulus Joubert Secondary in Paarl and didn’t follow the conventional route to top-flight rugby, and had to fight for the opportunities that came his way.

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And that fight is evident in his game, whether he is running with the ball on attack or tackling players almost twice his size.

The Bulls hot stepper said he was grateful for the opportunity and privilege to go to the World Cup to represent his country, and he is thankful, especially for Williams, who gave him the opportunity at the beginning of his career.

“At that stage I had nothing, and he gave me the opportunity to play Varsity Cup, Varsity Sevens and study (at UWC). I will be forever grateful for that,” Arendse said this past week.

“It is really special to be able to go to the World Cup. I still can’t really describe what I am feeling.”

On the same day he was presented to the country as one of the players that will help the Boks defend their world title, Arendse also cleaned up at the Bulls’ awards ceremony.

He bagged five categories, including the overall Player of the Year title.

He was one of the stars that helped the team reach the quarter-finals of the United Rugby Championship, while also featuring prominently in the Champions Cup and Currie Cup teams.

It was those performances that made it difficult for the Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and the rest of the management to overlook him in the starting line-up this season.

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Arendse started the international season with a hat-trick of tries against Australia and has scored 10 tries in his nine Test matches to date.

The former Blitzbok already knew from a young age that rugby was where he wanted to be.

“I first touched a rugby ball at the age of eight years old. A schoolteacher asked if I wanted to try rugby. I tried it, and the first game I enjoyed so much that I decided this is what I wanted to do,” Arendse said.

“And here I am today, still enjoying the game like I did the first time I played.

“It’s great to see so many guys from Paarl in the squad (Grant Williams and Canan Moodie also hail from the Boland town, while Frans Malherbe went to school in the area).

“It’s awesome to see the guys got the opportunities and used them. It is always special.”


IOL Sport

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