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Friday, March 1, 2024

Just when he thought his Rugby World Cup dream was over, the Springboks pulled Grant Williams back in

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For the entire week ahead of the Springboks’ World Cup squad announcement, Grant Williams had a nervousness about him because of the uncertainty of whether he was going to make the cut to go to France, or stay behind.

Because in his first start for the Boks at scrumhalf, he only lasted about 20 seconds against Argentina at Ellis Park before being wheeled off the pitch on a stretcher after sustaining a concussion.

It was an injury that came at an untimely stage in his career after he just started building momentum with the national team.

Williams (27) admitted that he felt his last chance had passed him by to make the cut after he sustained the concussion that kept him out of the final warm-up Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

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“I built up game confidence against Australia and New Zealand and felt ready for the Argentina match, which was my first start in the Springbok jersey … I felt prepared,” Williams said.

“Then it lasted 10 seconds. I battled with it last week (thinking that he wasn’t going to make it). It was probably the toughest challenge for me. I thought that the Argentina game would’ve been my only chance for a World Cup place.

“God’s hand was over me. I can play, I can walk. Things could’ve turned out very differently.

“But I am standing here, and I made the World Cup squad. I still can’t put my finger on what exactly the feeling is that I am experiencing. But I am happy, and all glory goes to God.”

Williams did not take the conventional route to the Boks and his career had many turns, including various injuries, before he reached the top.

After school – he attended Paarl Gymnasium – he had to forge a path through the South African club rugby scene.

After playing for College Rovers in Durban in 2017, the Sharks finally plucked him out of amateur rugby and plunged him into the deep waters of professional rugby.

Luckily for Williams, he knew how to swim, and he safely navigated the rugby waters in Durban to become one of the established scrumhalves at the Sharks.

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He has been pushing fellow Springbok Jaden Hendrikse for the starting berth at the coastal franchise, just like he has been doing at the Boks this year.

“The road I walked was not an easy one. There were stones and rocks ahead of me, but I had to work through them. I have to thank my family and the people from Paarl. They know my journey, and when things did not go too well, they supported me,” Williams said.

“I appreciate everyone who lent a hand, who helped when I needed it most. Thank you. I think Paarl is winning with myself, Frans (Malherbe), Canan (Moodie), and Kurt-Lee (Arendse) being included in the squad.

“I am looking forward to playing in France again. It is not a foreign place, as I’ve played there for the Sharks.

“We played against Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-final and it was an important match.

“The environment and atmosphere were amazing. I am looking forward to the World Cup.”

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport

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