On Thursday, with rugby sevens' debut on the world's biggest sporting stage fast approaching, South Africa’s Rugby World Cup 1995-winning hero Chester Williams was given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in Curitaba in recognition of his achievements in the game.
As the first head coach of South Africa’s sevens side Williams' affinity and love of the shortened format of the game runs deep, and the 45-year-old, who won 27 caps before calling it a day in 2000, cannot wait for the action to start at the Deodoro Stadium on 6 August.
"It's amazing that rugby sevens is part of the Olympics. It's an opportunity for rugby to show that we have all the Olympic values; respect, enjoyment and excellence, plus the balance between body, mind and spirit,” Williams told Rio2016.com.
Williams coached the Blitzboks at two Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments, in 1993 and 2001, and was also fleetingly involved when the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was in its formative stage around the turn of the Millennium.
The Blitzboks have gone on to become one of the most competitive nations in sevens, only twice finishing outside of the top two in the standings in the last nine series, and will arrive in Rio as one of the main gold medal contenders even though they have been drawn in a tough pool alongside Australia, France and Spain.
"People are going to love sevens in the Olympics. It's a short, exciting game," Williams said. "I would love South Africa to win it, but there will be tough competition from New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Great Britain."
As the poster boy hero of South Africa’s RWC 1995 win on home soil, Williams is well versed in sport’s capacity to bring people closer together and heal wounds of the past.
"You only have to look at the symbolism of the Olympic rings," he said. "Unity, excellence, respect. When the Games begin, we will see athletes competing in union. And that is what people want to see.
"Carrying the torch has been an amazing experience. This torch stands for friendship. I am very proud and honoured to be here. I can't explain the feeling I have – it comes very close to when we won the World Cup."
Photo: Rio 2016/Andre Luiz Mello