Remembering rugby legend James Small

James said it was that exact moment that changed his life, that simple phone call gave him a reason to stand up again!


Johannesburg, South Africa – A story about James Small and Nelson Mandela, by a South African rugby tweeter, is going viral for all the right reasons.

‘Oom Rugby’ shared a story about how Madiba helped the rugby legend during one of his biggest challenges with a simple, yet powerful phone call.

Read the full thread transcript below:

Here is a story that James Small told me just after he had the suicide attempt in 2009.

He went to stay at his mother’s home to get away from the media and the glaring. Nobody could get hold of him, and most people did not even know where he was.

Then the phone rang, and his mother answered it.

The person on the other side of the line said it was the office of the President, and Mr. Mandela wanted to talk to James. James didn’t believe this, so he told his mother to put the phone down. Then the phone rang again, and the same person said that the President wanted to talk to James.

So James got on the line suspiciously, and then the President said to him, “Hi James, how are you?”

James could not believe that someone knew where he was so he still did not believe it was him, but after a minute he quickly realised that it was, in fact, Mr, Mandela on the phone.

The President wanted to know if James was okay and also wanted to know what was going on.

James was going through a few things in his life, but a big issue he admitted to was that he was finding it very difficult to be away from the game and the spotlight, and he was not sure of his identity anymore.

The President listened to him and then said, “I know what it feels like if you think people have forgotten about you. I went through it as well in my time in prison.”

At that moment, James said he swallowed hard and got an instant perspective; how big were his problems really?

James said it was that exact moment that changed his life.

The fact that Mr. Mandela bothered to have a concern about him and then somehow got his people to track him down… and then to deliver such a perspective; a man who went through much much worse!

That is when James stood up again.

Mr. Mandela carried on to say, “James, you still have a big role to play and an even bigger responsibility. You are from the class of ‘95, and even if you think people have forgotten about you, they have not. You still have much to give, and you are still a hero to many. That is your identity.” 

Zelda la Grange, the former private secretary to Nelson Mandela, confirmed on Twitter that he did make the phone call that turned James’ life around.

Sources: Twitter | Oom Rugby | Zelda la Grange 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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