Former World Cup-winning Springbok Mark Andrews says the late James Small was a ‘great asset for the game’, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
On Wednesday, the rugby fraternity was rocked by the news that Small had suddenly passed away from a heart attack.
The lion-hearted winger was one of the most iconic members of the Boks’ 1995 World Cup-winning squad, which saw him produce an immensely gutsy defensive performance to keep All Blacks great Jonah Lomu at bay in the historic final at Ellis Park.
Andrews, who played alongside Small in that memorable World Cup campaign, reflected fondly on the impact Small had made on the game.
‘He was the typical bad boy of sport. Any sport has one, and we had James Small. Besides that, he just created a huge amount of excitement, especially as the game was going professional, rugby needed someone like James. And I’m not just talking about the the way he played on the field, which was 100% committed.
‘He brought a different vibe and edge, which I think the game needed. He was the first oke to really have a tattoo and then an earring, but he attracted real attention to the game, and I think brought a whole lot of new supporters with him. He was good for rugby. The game needed someone like that, and as much as he may have created news off the field, he also made headlines on the field with the way he played. He was the best bad boy to have.’
Reflecting on the 1995 final, Andrews recounted how they had prepared to counter the threat of Lomu.
‘On the way to the final, I sat behind James, and had a book by [former basketball legend] Michael Jordan that spoke about fears. I gave it to James, but the thing was, we’d all said to him as a team that he didn’t have to worry about Lomu, because as a group we were all focused on Lomu.
‘And if you think back to that game, I think we were all roaring after Lomu to tackle him, to the point that James almost had to get in the queue. For me, it just symbolised what that 1995 World Cup team was all about, and the role he played in it. You can’t deny he was a complicated guy, and maybe a bit of a loose cannon at times, but he brought a real energy to every team he played for, and he was just a great asset for the game.’
Andrews concluded by saying that if he could sum up Small in any way, it would be with the word ‘passionate’.
‘He was passionate about rugby, about life, about the teams he played for, and he was a very emotional guy. James was quite different to the perception that many people may have had of him. He got involved in the plight of various causes, and although he may have had a reputation as a hard guy, he also had a really soft side.’
Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images