Cape Town - The African National Congress on Wednesday paid tribute to former Springbok wing James Small, who died suddenly of a heart attack.
The party released a statement after news of the former South African internationals death broke in local media.
The statement read:
"The African National Congress (ANC) is shocked and saddened by the passing of former Springbok player, James Small.
He was a member of the legendary South African Rugby squad that won the World Cup in 1995, a year after the ushering in of a democratic government in South Africa.
The class of 1995 contributed enormously towards uniting the nation and displaying to the world South Africa’s sporting prowess.
James Small was a patriot who fought like a soldier in the field of play and was prepared to die with his boots on.
He played with extraordinary passion and commitment, for he knew that everytime he walked onto the field, he carried the hopes of the nation on his shoulders.
The ANC conveys its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and the entire sporting world."
Small made his debut for the Springboks against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 1992 and played in 47 Tests until 1997.
He scored 20 Test tries, with the last of those in his final match in the Green and Gold, against Scotland - a try which, at that stage, broke Danie Gerber's Test record.
In total, Small donned the Green and Gold 60 times, scoring 27 tries. He played Tests against New Zealand, Australia, Western Samoa, Fiji, France, Italy, Romania, England, Scotland, Argentina and the British & Irish Lions.
In his provincial career, Small played for the Golden Lions (then Transvaal), Sharks (then Natal) and Western Province, appearing in Currie Cup finals for all three sides and lifting the coveted golden cup in the colours of the Sharks and WP, but never with the Golden Lions.
In recent years, Small turned to coaching, and assisted Robert du Preez at NWU-Pukke and the Leopards before joining Pirates in Johannesburg as assistant coach.
Small is the fourth member of the Springbok squad from 1995 to pass away, after Kitch Christie (coach), Ruben Kruger (flank) and Joost van der Westhuizen (scrumhalf).