Legendary Springbok winger and 1995 Rugby World Cup winner James Small has passed away at the age of 50 in Cape Town on Wednesday.
His mother, Vaughn Small, confirmed the death of her son, who played in 47 Tests for the Springboks between 1992 and 1997.
“We suspect it was a heart attack but it hasn’t been confirmed yet,” she told Netwerk24.
Small had been visiting Cape Town and was on his way to Johannesburg where he was living with his 14-year-old daughter Ruby.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander 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,” he said.
“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.”
Small made his debut for the Springboks against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 1992 and played in 47 Tests. He scored 20 Test tries, with the last of those in his final match in the green and gold, against Scotland at Murrayfield – a try which, at that stage, broke former Bok centre 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.
He also played in the Super 12 Final for the Sharks in 1996 which the lost against the Blues in Auckland.
In recent years, Small turned to coaching, and assisted Robert du Preez at NWU-Pukke and the Leopards before joining Pirates in Johannesburg as an assistant coach.
Small is the fourth member of the World Cup-winning Springbok squad from 1995 to pass away, after Kitch Christie (coach), Ruben Kruger (flanker) and Joost van der Westhuizen (scrum-half).