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Wednesday Jul 10, 2019

Springbok World Cup winning icon James Small has died suddenly, aged 50

Former Springbok wing James Small, a member of the 1995 Rugby World Cup winning squad, has died suddenly from a heart attack. The 50-year-old Small was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday night after suffering from a suspected heart attack.

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A prolific high school athlete and brilliant rugby player, Small was one of a few rare cases in South Africa who went on to make it to the top from a co-ed high school, Greenside High.

His rise was rapid, making his debut for the Springboks against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 1992 and going on to play in 47 Tests until 1997. He scored 20 Test tries, with the last of those in his final match in the Green and Gold, against Scotland – a try which, at that stage, broke Danie Gerber’s Test record.

In total, Small donned the Green and Gold 60 times, scoring 27 tries. He played Tests against New Zealand, Australia, Western Samoa, Fiji, France, Italy, Romania, England, Scotland, Argentina and the British & Irish Lions.

In his provincial career, Small played for the Golden Lions (then Transvaal), Sharks (then Natal) and Western Province, appearing in Currie Cup finals for all three sides and lifting the coveted golden cup in the colours of the Sharks and WP, but never with the Golden Lions.

Small was also hugely famous for being the winger tasked with marking Jonah Lomu in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final. Lomu too, is no longer with us.

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Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, passed on his condolences to Small’s family and friends.

“James, as a member of the triumphant Rugby World Cup squad from 1995, will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of the South African public and we were devastated to hear of his passing,” said Mr Alexander. “He always played with the type of passion and courage that encapsulate what Springbok rugby stands for, and he lived his life in the same way.

“At 50 years old, James Small died too young. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends during this very sad time.”

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In recent years, Small turned to coaching, and assisted Robert du Preez at NWU-Pukke and the Leopards before joining Pirates in Johannesburg as assistant coach.

Small is the fourth member of the Springbok squad from 1995 to pass away, after Kitch Christie (coach), Ruben Kruger (flank) and Joost van der Westhuizen (scrumhalf).

May he rest in peace.

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