Jake White is holding his cards close to his chest, but the savvy New Zealanders suspect that Butch James has the inside track at flyhalf.
The Springbok coach is yet to say whether James or Meyer Bosman will wear the number 10 on Saturday. The decision will only be revealed just before the kickoff.
James’ last Tri-Nations game against the All Blacks was way back in 2001 at Eden Park, where the Springboks lost 15-26. His other game against the Kiwis also ended in a loss when South Africa went down 3-12 at Newlands in their first game of that series.
All Blacks backline coach Wayne Smith, however, believes that James is the favourite for Wellington. The New Zealanders rate him highly for his tactical game, but more for his physicality and how his aggression boosts the entire side.
“I’m certain he will have fixed up his tackling technique but the psyche won’t have changed,” Smith said.
“He’s an aggressive person, he’s a gain line player both on attack and defence and slightly different to the other two [Jaco van der Westhuizen and Meyer Bosman], so it will make a difference to us about how we will play depending on who is at 10.”
James hasn’t played for the Boks since 2002, but was White’s first choice at flyhalf ahead of the 2004 Test season. Unfortunately, he injured his knee and had to sit out the rest of that season, while Van der Westhuyzen took his opportunity and helped the Boks to Tri-Nations glory.
Tomorrow could mark the beginning of an incredible comeback for the Sharks flyhalf.