James Small the rugby player should be celebrated and honoured for the legacy he left in the Bok jersey, and the inspiration he gave South Africa as a rugby nation coming out of isolation, writes JAMES DALTON.
It is unfortunate that in the wake of Small’s passing, some of the media and public focus was on a report delving into the personal life of a rugby legend whose off-field antics are in reality none of my or anybody else’s business, and should be detached from the impact he had on the game, and the SA rugby public.
James was likened to myself, a ‘misunderstood individual’ – perhaps that’s a nice way of putting it when we’re guilty of silly behaviour – and while there will always be controversy surrounding him off the field, he was never a rebel in a team environment. He was a brilliant rugby player, an icon and somebody I considered a dear friend.
Playing against James meant playing against a 6-star performer. He embodied all the qualities you look for in the modern day wing: he had pace, strength, skill and tenacity. Playing with James, he was a teammate loyal to the core.
His loyalty transcended rugby, and as a friend he always had time for you. Not only for you, but for your family, too. I regret not having made more of an effort to show my appreciation for this and keep in touch, as I am choked up in saying goodbye. It acts as a lesson to us all that life is but a heartbeat.
There is so much negativity currently in both our rugby and social climates, so why should we add to this in analysing the fall of a brother and an icon? He was somebody who added true value to this country’s rugby history, in a time where the sport tied in so imperatively with our political state.
Let us remember the character James Small was, and the brilliant on-field memories that that name brings to many South Africans, not for a report that taints a legacy.
Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images