Former South Africa wing James Small dies aged 50

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World Cup-winning South Africa wing James Small has died from a suspected heart attack aged 50.

The 47-cap winger was part of the Springboks’ victorious World Cup squad from 1995.

Small was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday night, and died on Wednesday.

Rugby Union – World Cup South Africa 95 – Final – South Africa v New Zealand – Ellis Park, johannesburg
James Small, left, grapples with Jonah Lomu in South Africa’s World Cup final in 1995 (Jones/PA)

“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 South Africa rugby president Mark 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.”

Small made his debut for the Springboks against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 1992, scoring 20 tries in a distinguished Test career.

The combative winger starred in hosts South Africa’s redemptive 1995 World Cup victory, where Nelson Mandela famously wore the Springbok shirt for the final against New Zealand.

As the tributes started to grow for Small, former Proteas batsman Herschelle Gibbs tweeted: “Just heard the sad news about the ex-Springboks winger James Small who passed away today, really sad. RIP big man!”

Former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen branded Small his childhood “rugby hero”, while World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper also added his condolences.

“Very sad to hear the news of former Springbok James Small, the man who, among other achievements, marked Jonah Lomu during South Africa’s victorious and iconic 1995 Rugby World Cup final,” tweeted Gosper.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and the Springboks.”

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