Sharks flyhalf Butch James leaves for New Zealand tonight to beef up the Bok’s options at No 10.
James was a favourite of White’s during the Super 12 of 2004, and only missed out on Springbok selection through a serious knee injury he obtained in the final game of that competition. James has nine national caps and last represented South Africa against England at Twickenham in 2002, the infamous 53-3 drubbing. He was asked to train with the squad ahead of the June Tests but did not feature in any of the three games.
At this stage, Meyer Bosman seems likely to replace Jaco Van Der Westhuyzen, but James can’t wait to get back on the park. Some players may irk at the thought of returning to a failing squad, but James remains optimistic.
“I admit that I was disappointed to see the Springboks doing so badly last Saturday,” he told keo.co.za. “But all I can do is go out there and give it my best shot.
“You can never turn down the oppotunity to play for your country, and so I look forward to playing against the All Blacks.”
Whether his team-mates look forward to facing New Zealand is another matter entirely, but James points out that Brisbane saw an off-day for the South Africans.
“They just didn’t click,” he said.
Another big topic of conversation has been the overuse of the rush defence, which was exploited well by the Wallabies.
“I think that when it was first introduced it worked well. But I’m not sure if everyone’s bought into it, and it’s the type of defence that everybody has to get right for it to work.
“The changes to the side may have also effected this structure, and perhaps a few of the players need to get to know each other better. Who knows, it may come right this week.”
The Aussies bounced back from the hammering they took against the All Blacks in Christchurch to beat the Boks 49-0. It is perhaps too great a leap of faith to believe that South Africa can do the same.
“The All Blacks are just as good defensively as they are on attack, but if we didn’t believe that we could beat them, then we wouldn’t play,” stresses James.
When he arrives at the Springbok camp in Wellington on Tuesday, hopefully he will find a group of players who believe the same thing.
By Jon Cardinelli