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Ex-Bok captain Matfield pays tribute to 'rebel' James Small at memorial

Ex-Bok captain Matfield pays tribute to 'rebel' James Small at memorial

James Small was probably the first rebel in SA rugby - and was loved for it.

So says former World Cup-winning lock Victor Matfield, who was speaking on the sidelines of Small's memorial on Thursday.

"Everyone loved him for that, because he was himself. He didn't want to be anyone else. There was probably a strong Afrikaans-driven part in SA rugby and he was a soutie from Joburg.

"He was just himself: sometimes difficult, sometimes awesome to be around. But, ja, he made a difference."

About 400 people attended the memorial service, held on the rugby fields of The Wanderers in Johannesburg.

Matfield recalled when he was in matric on his way to joining the Blue Bulls when the 1995 Rugby World Cup was held in SA - and how Small's legendary tackle on All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu fuelled his dream.

"The year 1995 was an inspiration for all of us and for the whole country," he said.

Matfield first met Small when he played for the Cats as a youngster, and knew no one.

"James was the first to call me over and say, 'Come sit here.' And we started chatting. At night when the team went out for a beer, he would call my room and say, 'Come, you're part of the team'."

The memorial got under way shortly after 2pm.