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The tragic Springbok that was the focus of the Lions pre-game analysis in 1997

By Online Editors

The British and Irish Lions social media account have re-released some of the footage of the pre-game analysis leading up to the touring side’s match with Western Province in 1997. The clip from the much-loved ‘Living With Lions’ documentary shows the team preparing for the meeting with the much-feared regional side.


The brilliant and tragic South Africa wing James Small is the focus of much of the discussion while squad captain Martin Johnson is to the fore in the pre-match preparation with intense words at the hotel and a fiery speech just before the team takes the field.

Tragically of course, Small died in 2019 after suffering a heart attack, aged just 50. He was the fourth member of the Springbok squad from 1995 to pass away, after Kitch Christie (coach), Ruben Kruger (flank) and Joost van der Westhuizen (scrum-half). A few months later teammate Chester Williams passed away, sadly becoming the fifth Springbok from the famous team to do so.

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 against Scotland – a try which at that stage broke Danie Gerber’s Test record.

In total, Small donned the South African jersey 60 times, scoring 27 tries. He played Tests against New Zealand, Australia, Western Samoa, Fiji, France, Italy, Romania, England, Scotland, Argentina and the British and Irish Lions.

– British and Irish Lions



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