The fact that Chester Williams and James Small, star wings of our 1995 World Cup winning rugby team, are no longer with us has greatly saddened Fredo. No-one who lived through those days will ever forget those days – the stately Nelson Mandela presiding over this bunch of courageous young men who somehow changed the early days of our country’s new democracy by fighting all the way for their country and all its people to thump the Mighty All Blacks in Johannesburg.
The sad thing is that most people under 30 years of age in South Africa today – probably more than 50% of the population – do not remember the event and what led up to it. Nor do they know about and experienced the turbulent times that preceded those momentous years of 1994 and 1995.
For Fredo and his family the day at Ellis Park when the whole stadium chanted NELSON NELSON, the SAA Boeing 747 skimmed low over our heads and the Springboks stood tall – including Chester and James, hold special memories.
Obviously, from that team we already also lost other great players, but the fact that Chester and James left us so soon after each other, and at such a young age, came as a special shock.
Stories of 1995
In 1995, Fredo’s role was to coordinate his companies visitors programme form the United Kingdom to bring special customers to the event to watch their teams in action. It took him on the road for more than a month, with Janey and the kids at home.
The tournament, however, ended with a special surprise for Fredo and family. Those wonderful people at British airways, Regional Manager Ian Petrie and Account Executive Glenda Furguson, somehow contrived to take Janey, Johno, Sue and me to the final. British Airways was our special partner and on many occasions supported initiatives of our company.
In those days two BA jumbo’s arrived in Cape Town in the morning. One of them would, during the day, fly to Johannesburg to take on a full load of passengers for the overnight flight from Johannesburg to London.
The flight to Johannesburg
We were placed on this flight to Johannesburg and were royally treated in the Business Class section of the massive aircraft on the two hour flight to Johannesburg. That is why we were there on that fantastic day, at Ellispark, when the SAA jumbo flew over the stadium so low that we almost felt we could touch the wings, when Nelson Mandela walked out in the nr 6 Springbok jersey to the chant of ‘Nelson, Nelson, Nelson!’.
When Francois Pienaar’s team finally, after 120 minutes, emerged the winners! No matter that the English referee almost cost us the match by denying the legitimate try of one of the other departed team members, Ruben Kruger.
Ellispark was an amazing place to be and amongst all Chester Williams and James Small, two fairly small and stocky players, like Jack Russel dogs, refused to give up.
It was more than an hour after play ended that we slowly left from our seats, high up in the corner of the main stand, almost reluctant to leave the scene of this magnificent victory. As we walked down the ramp, there was a giant pair of underpants displayed on the wall! A note next to it read: “Jonah Lumo’s underpants, taken down by James Small.” James stopped Lomo and the chase by Chester down to the corner in the last minutes which almost brought a try in the last minutes, before Joel Stransky’s drop goal, will last forever in our hearts.
We thank you for the joy and pleasure you brought to our lives and being true fighters. You set examples for all of us.