Pat Symcox saddened by death of 'hero' James Small

Cape Town - Former Proteas cricketer Pat Symcox is saddened by the death of his friend, former Springbok rugby star James Small.

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The South African sporting fraternity was shocked on Wednesday when news broke that Small had died of a heart attack at the age of 50.

Symcox and Small both represented South Africa in their respective sporting codes in the 1990s - the period just after the country's re-admission into the international fray following apartheid.

In an interview with Sport24 on Thursday, Symcox said he was still in shock: "I knew him very well. I was actually with him at a rugby game a couple of weeks ago. We were in a corporate box together."

Symcox, who played 20 Tests and 80 one-day internationals for South Africa, added that he and Small also had a working relationship.

"At one stage I actually managed him. So, I've known him pretty well for a long time. It's bloody sad. I feel so sorry for his little girl (Ruby, 14)."

After retiring from professional rugby, Small had difficulty coping - he at one stage even contemplated suicide - but had turned his life around in the last few years.

"He was really getting it back together. And you only have to look at the accolades that he's achieved... the praise he's received by his peers... he was an icon in our sport.

"South Africa in the mid-90s relied a lot on sport as a big unifier for our country. 1995 was a unifying moment, Bafana Bafana in 1996 winning the Africa Cup of Nations... you can go down to Josia Thugwane (Olympic Marathon gold medal winner in 1996), Penny Heyns (Olympic gold and silver medal swimmer in 1996, bronze in 2000)...

"Sport was a unifying factor in South Africa in the 1990s and James Small was part of that. He was a hero to me, so I'm really sad about it," Symcox added.

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