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'We're heartbroken' - Class of '95 pays tribute to James Small

The 50-year-old was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday night after suffering from a suspected heart attack.

FILE: Springbok winger James Small (centre) fights for the ball with French Christophe Califano (L) and Laurent Leflamand on 7 December 1996 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris during a Test match which South Africa won 13-12. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Former players have paid tribute to James Small following the death of the 1995 Springbok World Cup winner.

The 50-year-old was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday night after suffering from a suspected heart attack.

Small played for South Africa between 1992 and 1997, scoring 20 test tries.

Players who were part of South Africa's first World Cup-winning team have reacted to his death with shock and devastation.

Pienaar, who led Small and the rest of the Springboks to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, said: "The class of 1995, we're heartbroken...it was a great shock. On the field, he left nothing behind... he played with the heart of a lion."

Chester Williams, who played on the opposite wing in 1995, held Small in high regard.

"It's very sad news. James was a good friend of mine and we saw each other just last month, so it's very sad for me."

LISTEN: Class of '95 remembers James Small

Joel Stransky, who was instrumental in the Boks lifting the World Cup for the first time, said it was devastating to hear of his passing.

"It's a great loss for us as a group of friends that have been through so much together and its a great loss for his family and those close to him. Rugby has lost one of its legends so its a very sad day."

Mark Andrews, who played alongside Small at lock‚ said the death came as a shock.

"To lose him so young is tragic. He brought lots of interest into the game and into the professional game and he was a very special character in our side."

Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers also paid tribute to the legendary winger, saying Small would be sorely missed.

"I must say, I'm quite shocked still. He really is one of the legends of South African rugby and just lived with a different passion in the way that he played rugby. He was a bit of a controversial figure, but I think someone that was always honest to his word and never pretended to be something that he is not, so it's a massive loss to the whole rugby fraternity."