JOHANNESBURG – The South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA) said on Friday it had created a fundraising initiative to support rugby legend James Small's family after his death.
The former Springbok wing, who died last week aged 50 from a heart attack, was buried on Thursday following a funeral service at the Wanderers rugby club in Johannesburg. He is survived by two young children.
SARLA president and renowned South African philanthropist Gavin Vareje said Small lived and played with passion and courage, adding that the association regarded him as a true legend.
“I speak for all our rugby legends when I say that we are truly devastated to hear of James’ passing,” Varejes said.
“I will never forget the enthusiasm he expressed when the Springboks were learning the lyrics of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and later, when during a visit to Robben Island, James visibly wept at Madiba’s (global anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela) ability to remain so compassionate following his prison term.”
Small will always be remembered for his vital role in South Africa’s triumphant 1995 rugby world cup, where he managed to keep New Zealand star Jonah Lomu at bay to claim victory for the Springboks.
Small made his debut on the Springbok’s wing in 1992 against New Zealand’s All Blacks, playing a total of 47 tests until late 1997.
He wore South Africa’s green and gold uniform a total of 60 times, scoring 27 tries and playing in tests against Australia, New Zealand, Western Samoa, England, Scotland, Romania, Italy, Argentina and France, among others.
His final test match saw him score his 20th try, earning him the title of lead Springbok try scorer, breaking Danie Gerber's test record of the time.
After ending his professional rugby career, Small continued to devote his time and energy as a coach to various clubs and to SARLA's rugby development and transformational activities with youth from previously disadvantaged communities.
SARLA chief executive, Stefan Terblanche, said Small would always have a special place in the heart and history of South Africa’s rugby community, legends and fans.
“Whilst James was often regarded with humour as our 'bad boy' due to his intense passion during a game, his passion was always equal in measure to the love he felt and expressed for his fellow man and in the pursuit of the transformation of rugby in South Africa,” Terblanche said.
Details of the fundraising initiative will be shared on the screens at halftime during the Springboks match against Australia on Saturday at Ellis Park stadium.