Captain Siya Kolisi says the Springboks hope to produce a performance that would have made James Small proud when they take on the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The veteran Bok wing, who made 47 Test appearances between 1992 and 1997 and was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1995, passed away last Wednesday after suffering a heart attack.
Speaking to the media at Small’s funeral on Thursday, Kolisi said Small’s death had taken its toll on the Bok squad, and that they will dedicate Saturday’s opening Rugby Championship Test to him.
‘Of course [it’ll be a tribute to James]. It’s the start of a new competition but he was such a huge influence on our game that we can’t ignore the enormity of what he has done for and means to the Springbok family,’ Kolisi reiterated.
‘Only a few people get to wear that Springbok jersey. And obviously when a thing like this happens, we as players want to give our best for the person we lost, for the country and for the jersey. It’s been a tough week, but the boys have been working really hard to achieve that objective [of doing Small proud]. I know all the boys will give their best at Ellis Park to make him proud, it’s going to be a great weekend.’
Kolisi, who was only four years old when the Springboks – with Small in their ranks – won the country’s maiden World Cup in 1995, says he doesn’t remember much of that time, but he and several other current Boks have been inspired by videos of Small.
‘To be honest, I was quite young during the 1995 World Cup. But I got to see videos of him and that is how I learned more about James as a player. His success encouraged us smaller guys to work at it. I know some of the smaller guys, Cheslin Kolbe and Herschel Jantjies in particular, draw immense motivation and confidence from James who was a high-calibre performer.
‘I was so happy to finally meet him. I’ve never seen such a positive person, always willing to help whenever you wanted him to. He is definitely going to be missed.’
The Springboks kick off their Rugby Championship campaign against the Wallabies in Johannesburg on Saturday. The match starts at 5pm.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) July 18, 2019
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images