James Small didn't die naked - The Harem club owner

James Small in February at his 50th birthday bash. (PHOTO: Facebook)
James Small in February at his 50th birthday bash. (PHOTO: Facebook)

Former Springbok James Small, 50, collapsed in gentlemen's club The Harem in Bedfordview, but he was not naked as earlier reported, according to Netwerk24.

According to Rapport, Small, who died on Wednesday, was found naked and unconscious at the club.

The publication reported that a source who was at the Life Bedford Gardens Hospital on Tuesday night for an unrelated issue, said that a woman had rushed in and that her "client from her club" was in the car.

Nurses reportedly had to get a blanket to cover Small, before taking him from the vehicle.

But according to the club's co-owner, Jerome Saffi, Small, who was a regular patron of the club, was having a few drinks at the bar while he waited for a date when he collapsed, Beeld reported.

"My staff told me he was using his phone when he suddenly collapsed," Saffi told Beeld. Staff members reportedly administered CPR in an attempt to help him.

'He wasn't nude'

"They struggled to get him into a car as he is a heavy man. I suspect his pants may have been pulled down a bit [in the process] but he wasn't nude," Saffi reportedly said.

The former Springbok wing died on Wednesday after having a heart attack, Sport24 reported.

According to a statement released by SA Rugby, Small was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

READ: James Small: 14 pictures of SA's greatest No 14

According to Rapport, a witness who did not want to be identified told the publication that a man, who identified himself as an Uber driver and who accompanied the woman inside the hospital, apparently gave a different version, saying Small had been found naked in the woman's bathroom at her house after she ordered an Uber ride.

The two seemed to argue over who would sign Small's admission form. The woman then said she would call "Steven". Another man, believed to be Steven, later arrived at the hospital with Small's mobile phone, laptop, wallet and notebook. He allegedly signed the admission form. Police had to intervene after they arrived at the hospital after the three people got into some sort of argument, with the man believed to be Steven waving a firearm at one point.

Uber told Rapport it could find no record of a trip to the Life Bedford Gardens hospital in Bedfordview on the night.

'Staff took Small to hospital'

These events are disputed by Saffi, who told Beeld that staff members transported Small to Life Bedford Gardens Hospital, which is less than two minutes' drive from The Harem, instead of waiting for an ambulance. While Saffi was reportedly not present, staff members informed him that Small still had a pulse when he was taken to hospital, where he was declared dead.

Saffi described The Harem as a discreet gentlemen's club which rents rooms to men who want to meet women, according to Netwerk24. The Harem reportedly employs women who men can choose from, but clients mainly bring their own dates to the club. Saffi told Netwerk24 that Small regularly met clients and women at the club.

Johannesburg gentlemen's club The Harem

Johannesburg gentlemen's club The Harem. (The Harem website)

Following the completion of the autopsy on Friday afternoon, the cause of death was reported as "ischaemic heart disease", Sport24 reported.

Small played 47 Tests for the Springboks between 1992 and 1997 and scored 20 tries.

He was also part of the Springbok team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

ALSO READ: James Small: Tribute to a self-motivated scrapper

Small is the fourth member of that Springbok party to have passed away. Coach Kitch Christie died of cancer in 1998, flank Ruben Kruger died of brain cancer in 2010, and scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen died as a result of motor neurone disease in 2017.

Respect their privacy

The family released a statement late on Saturday, urging the media and the public to respect their privacy, especially that of Small's two children.

"Given how well known James was, we understand the media and public interest. The James we know made mistakes. Yes, he battled tough times. Who hasn't? However, he took responsibility for those mistakes – the many journalists who interviewed him and all his teammates and friends will attest to this. James' legacy speaks for itself.

"As his family, our sole concern right now are his two young children, who are shocked and devastated. To lose your father suddenly is traumatic enough without the added pressure they are getting from certain sectors.

"We again seriously request that the children and the family's privacy be respected by the media.

"James lived his life in the public eye. His children did not.

"The coroner and police have confirmed that James died from a heart attack. No foul play is suspected. This is surely where the public's 'need-to-know' should end.

"We will not dignify any other stories or rumours with a response and will not be making any further comment.

"We have a funeral to plan and the life of a hero – a man we loved – to celebrate."

Small's funeral will be held on Thursday, July 18, at 14:00 at The Deck at the Wanderers Club.

"All mourners will be welcome," the family spokesperson added.

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