Bok newcomers counting their blessings after massive World Cup honour

Bok newcomers counting their blessings after massive World Cup honour

Springbok newcomers Kurt-Lee Arendse and Grant Williams are both still pinching themselves as they try to come to terms with the fact that they are heading to the World Cup.

The two exciting backline stars were both included in Jacques Nienaber's 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in France on Tuesday.

"It is really special to be able to go to the World Cup. I still can't really describe what I am feeling," Arendse told IOL's Leighton Koopman, while Williams expressed similar sentiments, saying "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."

Arendse might not be where he is now if it weren't for late Springbok winger Chester Williams, who gave him his first real opportunity in the 2019 Varsity Cup while serving as coach of the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Chester made a major splash with the Springboks as part of the World Cup-winning side of 1995, and now Arendse has an opportunity to follow in the great man's footsteps.

"At that stage I had nothing, and he gave me the opportunity to play Varsity Cup, Varsity Sevens and study (at UWC)," Arendse said of the role Williams played in his career. "I will be forever grateful for that."

As for the Boks' impressive new scrumhalf Grant Williams, he admits he endured a torrid time after the disappointment of his early exit in the Test match against Argentina at Ellis Park.

The game was meant to be the young No 9's opportunity to impress the Springbok selectors after a couple of cameo performances but his debut as a starter lasted just seconds before he was knocked out cold by a reckless challenge.

Licking his wounds after the match, Williams thought his chance to play his way into the World Cup squad might have come and gone.

"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," he 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."

Both Arendse and Williams hail from Paarl in the Boland and couldn't help but reflect on the long journeys they had made to get to this point in their careers.

"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."

Williams added: "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.

"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 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."

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