World Cup-winning rugby star James Small was found naked and unconscious in a sex club before being rushed to hospital where he died of a heart attack, it has been claimed.
The 50-year-old wing was driven to the hospital without his clothes on by a woman at a ‘gentlemen’s club’ which boasts ladies for hire on its website, Rapport reports.
She reportedly rushed inside the Life Bedford Gardens hospital in Johannesburg asking for a portable hospital bed, telling staff the rugby player was too heavy to be put in a wheelchair.
The woman who rushed Small to the hospital allegedly told nurses he was a client of the notorious sex club The Harem and he had been found collapsed there.
World Cup-winning South African rugby star James Small, pictured in 1997, was found naked and unconscious in a sex club before being rushed to hospital where he died of a heart attack, it has been claimed
The 50-year-old wing, pictured in 1996, was reportedly driven to the hospital without his clothes on by a woman at a ‘gentlemen’s club’ which boasts ladies for hire on its website
According to its Facebook page, The Harem is a ‘gentleman’s club that caters for every need’ offering an ‘adult entertainment service’
According to its Facebook page, The Harem is a ‘gentleman’s club that caters for every need’ offering an ‘adult entertainment service’.
South African police have asked to see toxicology reports and have confirmed that a judicial inquest has now been opened into the cause of his death.
The newspaper said that police had tried to unlock Small’s cell phone without success but could see from an open message that £175 had been withdrawn earlier.
His family have not commented on the rumours, but shared a statement.
They told the South African: ‘We seriously request that the family’s privacy is respected by the media.
‘James lives his life in the private eye, but his children did not. No foul play is suspected, and this is surely where the public’s “need to know” must end.’
‘We will not dignify any other stories or rumours with a response and we won’t be making any further comment on this issue. We have a funeral to plan and the life of a hero – and a man we loved – to celebrate.’
Small was renowned for his jet-heeled fleetness of foot and earned 47 Test caps between 1992 and 1997, scoring 20 tries.
He is the third member of South Africa’s 1995 World Cup team to have passed away after the deaths of Ruben Kruger in 2010 and Joost van der Westhuizen in 2017.
The former wing earned a reputation as a tearaway during his time in a Springbok shirt – he was renowned for his outspoken nature and became the first South African to be sent off in a Test match after arguing with a referee.
South African police have asked to see toxicology reports and have confirmed that a judicial inquest has now been opened into the cause of his death. Small is pictured being tackled by England’s Richard Hill at Twickenham back in 1997
Pictures: James Small in 2015 during a reunion for the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg
Tributes have flooded in for Small since news emerged of his passing. Former Proteas opening batsman Herschelle Gibs said: ‘Just heard the sad news about the ex-Springboks winger James Small who passed away today really sad! Rip big man!’
Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby, said: ‘Very sad to hear the news of former Springbok James Small – the man who, among other achievements, marked Jonah Lomu during South Africa’s victorious and iconic 1995 Rugby World Cup Final. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and the Springboks.’
South African-born former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen also tweeted his shock at hearing the news, saying Small was his ‘rugby hero’ when he was growing up.
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said: ‘James, as a member of the triumphant Rugby World Cup squad from 1995, will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of the South African public and we were devastated to hear of his passing.
‘He always played with the type of passion and courage that encapsulate what Springbok rugby stands for, and he lived his life in the same way.
‘At 50 years old, James Small died too young. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends during this very sad time.’
Small made his debut against the All Blacks in 1992 and in his final Test in 1997, he scored his 20th try to break Dane Gerber’s record.
After retiring from playing 20 years ago, Small turned to coaching and assisted Robert du Preez at NWU-Pukke and the Leopards before joining Pirates in Johannesburg as assistant coach.