James Small, one of rugby’s great characters and performers, has died at the age of 50, just a fortnight after the 24th anniversary of the winger’s greatest hour, his taming of All Black giant Jonah Lomu in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at Ellis Park.
Small, just 50 years old, died of a heart attack at his Cape Town home on Wednesday morning.
He played 47 Tests for the Springboks between 1992 and 1997 and was an integral member of that 1995 World Cup-winning team. Many would say that the bravery he showed in that epic final embodied the indomitable spirit the South Africans showed that day.
The stocky right wing from Johannesburg scored 20 tries in his career, but it is for his courageous defence in marking the Lomu juggernaut out of the game that will forever live on.
Lomu had scored seven tries in the lead-up to the World Cup final, including four the week before in the semi-final against England, and was expected to spearhead a New Zealand victory. But Small had other ideas.... Lomu, and his All Black teammates went try-less in losing 15-12 to the Boks.
Small concluded his international career two years later at Murrayfield in Edinburgh where he scored two tries against the Scots in his farewell appearance.
Small, who had started his career with his native Transvaal before playing the lion’s share of his rugby for Natal, concluded his career with two years at Western Province, retiring in 1999.
SA Player of the Year nominee: 1993
Member of the World Cup-winning Springbok squad: 1995
Currie Cup winner with the Sharks: 1995 & 1996
Top try-scorer in the Super 12: 1996
Currie Cup winner with Western Province: 1997@MikeGreenaway67