Toulon - Ex-France international Eric Melville has died at the age of 55 after suffering a heart attack, his former team Toulon confirmed on Monday.
"Terrible news this morning. Giant South African flank Eric Melville has died of a heart attack overnight on Sunday to Monday at just 55 years," Toulon said in a statement.
"A player of great talent ... Eric Melville was above all an exceptional man, generous and full of humanity."
Born in Cape Town, Melville arrived in France aged 19 and became the first South African to become a French international, winning six caps and playing the Five Nations tournament in 1990.
He started his club career playing at Hagetmau and Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France before joining Toulon where he won the French title in 1987 and 1992.
"I'm shocked by the terrible news of Eric's death," wrote former Toulon team-mate Aubin Hueber on his Facebook page.
"All those who met him were seduced by his endearing personality, and are devastated by his sudden death."
"Sincere condolences to his family and loved ones," French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte wrote on Twitter. "This incredible player will have marked the history of rugby."
Toulon's South African lock Bakkies Botha also wrote on Twitter: "RIP Eric Melville, a great loss for RCT's history, farewell my friend."