Cape Town – A great team man with compassion for rugby fans and children.
That is how James Small’s former team-mates say they will remember the former Springbok winger, who died of a heart attack at the age of 50 on Wednesday.
He will best be remembered for playing in South Africa’s victorious 1995 Rugby World Cup winning team and his former team-mates say they have fond memories of Small.
In an interview with Afrikaans radio station RSG, fellow former winger Chester Williams said: “I saw him about three weeks ago at a function… we still made jokes together. The thing I’ll really miss about James is the energy he always brought to the group. And I experienced that energy three weeks ago as well… always making jokes and sharing stories. So, we’ll really miss him for that.
Williams added that Small “developed fast as a player and was always very mature for his age”.
“We had a great understanding on the field… and along with Andre Joubert at fullback… it worked well as a back three. And I think that’s why we were so successful as a team.
“He a had a soft heart. He always cared for kids and for people who were struggling financially.”
Former lock Kobus Wiese said: “It’s a very sad day. Not only was he a great team man but also a good friend. We’ve come a long way. We started playing together for Transvaal as two youngsters… there were many established guys like Jannie Breedt, Wahl Bartmann, Charles Pieterse, Schalk Naude, John Robbie to name a few… so we were two young guns in the team and had to stand together and fight our way to the top.
“He was a guy you could depend on… probably controversial in some people’s eyes at times… but not if you understood him… he was a guy who would have done anything for his team-mates.”
Former flyhalf Joel Stransky, who kicked the winning drop goal in the 1995 final against the All Blacks, added: “I will remember James for the way he handled children… the way he dealt with fans… he had a massive heart. He was a great team-mate, always smiling and always fiercely combative.”
Francois Pienaar, the Springbok captain during the 1995 World Cup, told YOU magazine: “We’re all shocked and saddened. James had been fearless on the field and off the field, he had a deep empathy for people.
“We’re going to miss him a lot. His family is in our prayers during this terribly hard time. Rest in peace, James. You were a rock.”
Yesterday was consumed by the devastating news of #JamesSmall passing. A true legend of life itself and of our beautiful game. Passionate & fiercely competitive, a brother who touched all our lives in the most inspirational way! RIP James! pic.twitter.com/9cfzHEyJ1z
— Joel Stransky (@stranners) July 11, 2019
God speed Bushy, devastating day in our lives??We lost a friend, a brother??
— Kobus Wiese (@4KobusWiese) July 10, 2019