Cape Town - Former Sharks and Western Province wing tackles YOUR questions. He discusses the miss-management of Bismarck du Plessis, his coaching desire and which team he’ll be supporting for Saturday’s Currie Cup final at Newlands...
Landi Lubbe asked: Where in the world are you? Are you still involved in rugby?
James Small: I’m based in Johannesburg. I work for a company called ADreach who primarily own the street pole advertising footprint in South Africa. While I miss Cape Town’s natural beauty, to be honest, the people in Jo’burg are a lot friendlier. At the moment, my only involvement with rugby is through the Investec Rugby Academy. I would actually like to coach one of the Varsity Cup sides; I think it’s something that would come naturally to me.
Raymond Silinga asked: The biggest difference between rugby today and back when you played?
James Small: I would say the dynamic of the ball in play. When I played, the ball was in play on average between 19 and 25 minutes. Nowadays that statistic has most probably doubled. As such, the athleticism and the overall skill level of the modern athlete is much higher than it once was.
Herman Mostert asked: Where did you most enjoy your rugby in SA: WP, Lions or Sharks?
James Small: The Sharks was the best experience for me. A lot of it was due to Ian McIntosh. It really was a family environment in Durban and his wife even used to cook dinner for the players. And obviously being English-speaking, it was a lot easier for me to co-exist with like-minded people.
Russell Mcalister asked: What's your opinion on Bismarck du Plessis’s stamping incident in the semi-final? Do you think he should have been found guilty?
James Small: I agree he got lucky but sometimes those calls go for you and other times against you. I actually feel sorry for Bismarck – I think he has been treated very badly in South African rugby. I think his frustration is fully understandable owing to the way he has been shunted from pillar to post. I understand there are rotation systems in place but he is by far the best hooker in world rugby and yet hardly ever plays a full 80 minutes, which is all he wants to do.
Ockert J Du Preez asked: Who is South Africa’s best winger at this moment?
James Small: Bryan Habana by a long way. He is a very complete footballer. I also look forward to the continued development of Cheslin Kolbe. He’s the type of player we need in South African rugby, because I believe an attacking understanding has gone out of our game.
Hannes Hornsby asked: Should Gio Aplon get a Springbok call-up for the end-of-year tour and in which positions would you play Willie le Roux and Pat Lambie?
James Small: Aplon definitely deserves a chance. I refuse to believe that he can’t do a better job than Zane Kirchner at fullback. He will never let the team down, has plenty of pace and hardly misses tackles owing to his speed and positional play, which is exceptional. With regards to Le Roux, I would like to see him playing on the right wing as he is best suited to that position. In order to play fullback you have to be able to kick with both feet. As for Lambie, he has paid his dues and if you want him to be your future NO 10 he needs more game time. He now also needs to stick to one position.
Adele Hamilton asked: Do you believe the Boks should have played a part in the closing stages of the Currie Cup or should they have been rested?
James Small: The bottom line is they get paid (by their unions) and they must play. Yes, there is a lot of rugby played and guy like Jean de Villiers, for example, should be given a sabbatical much like Richie McCaw. However, I don’t think we will get to a stage where we contract centrally in South Africa. This issue has been talked about since my playing days. They are all on the same page in New Zealand, but in South Africa the reality is that provincialism is still too strong.
Jodi Marais asked: Does the six-team Currie premier division format work or would you be in favour of it expanding to eight teams?
James Small: I believe we should have as many teams competing in the premier division as possible. Crowd attendances are down, therefore the Cup needs to be competed for on a broader scale. I really feel that the smaller unions need to get involved and once again play a part. I believe they will breathe new life into the oldest provincial competition in world rugby. We need to create a bigger pool so that the national selectors have more players to choose from.
Maano Nekhavhambe asked: Having played for both provinces, where will your allegiance lie this Saturday?
James Small: Definitely with the Sharks. I’m a big fan. While Western Province are a class outfit and deserve the favourites tag, I’m backing the Sharks to sneak home by two points. I believe they will profit from turn-over ball.
Joe van Niekerk