The University of the Western Cape (UWC) rugby team will take on the University of Cape Town (UCT) for the Chester Williams Memorial Trophy when the two sides meet in a Varsity Cup clash on Monday night.
The trophy will honour the 1995 World Cup-winning Springbok legend for his immeasurable contribution to rugby at university, regional, national and international level over the years.
Williams, who passed away on 6 September 2019, coached UWC to the 2017 and 2018 Varsity Shield triumphs - the second of which earned the university promotion to the premier Varsity Cup. UWC became the first previously disadvantaged university to achieve this feat.
UWC Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, said this year’s derby will be played in the Western Cape for the first time: “You will remember that its first edition was played in a secure bubble in Pretoria last year. Given Chester's close relations with both rugby clubs, this surely will be an emotional affair and a ‘homecoming’ for Chester's rugby memories”.
Gagayi had previously explained that the reason for this collaboration is that Chester was always enthusiastic about playing against the UCT Ikeys - whether in the Western Province league or in the Varsity Cup, because he believed that UCT was the only club that could give UWC an honest measure of their progress.
Rugby matches between the two clubs have often resulted in entertaining and closely-contested encounters, with the first Chester Williams Memorial Trophy ending 58-55 in favour of the Ikeys.
But that will count for nothing when the two teams lock horns next week, according to UWC strength and conditioning coach, Lubabalo Faleni. “It was a big game last year but we can’t be relying on past performances. This year we are focused on one game at a time and, ultimately, we want to promote and showcase the brand of rugby that we want to play,” said Faleni.
“We want to follow up on the performance that we had against Madibaz (when we won 60-26) and we want to improve on the mistakes we had in that game. There was a lot that the players could improve on - we only gave 40% of what the players can offer.”
Faleni, who played under Williams before forming part of his coaching staff, believes the trophy has brought a new dimension to the next Cup game. “It's an important game for us,” he said. “All the games are important, but specifically this one. Ever since it has had a Chester memorial association to it there has been a different element to this fixture. There is an added incentive to this game. Not really added pressure, but more eagerness to want to do one’s best.”
Faleni, who graduated with a sports science degree from UWC, remembers that Williams was straight to the point with regards to what he wanted and required from his players. “He had a no-nonsense policy when it came to the coaching side of things. He demanded hard work, but he listened to and made time for his players. You could contact him anytime to get guidance on what to improve, or anything.”
The Gqeberha-born Faleni said he was fascinated by how passionate Williams was about his work. “You would swear that he prioritised the team more than his family. But that was just his way of showing how much he enjoyed his work and how passionate he was about it.”
As an up-and-coming coach, Faleni added that he learnt a lot from Chester.
The UCT-UWC fixture is scheduled to take place at UCT Rugby Fields on Monday 7 March 2022. Kick-off is at 19h00.