Charlie in for Butching headache

Butch James finds himself back at flyhalf this weekend; a move made to disrupt England’s Charlie Hodgson in the first receiver channel.

Springbok coach Jake White has stood by his decision to play one of the biggest No 10s in world rugby, talking up the Sharks pivot and his trademark defence in the build up to Saturday’s Test. In a few days time we will all see if Butch’s bite can live up to White’s bark.

“It’s true that Butch hasn’t played much rugby, but we know what he has to offer,” White told the media. “Charlie knows who Butchie is, but if he continues to play the ball closer to the advantage line, he may get to know Butchie a little bit better.”

James only recently made his comeback to international rugby after a layoff of nearly four years. He was called up in the middle of the Vodacom Tri-Nations to replace the out-of-sorts Jaco van der Westhuyzen for the All Black Test, with touring back-up Meyer Bosman not even considered as a replacement.

Pretorius admittedly did not have the best game in the Boks losing effort against the Irish last week, but he did have the disadvantage of playing behind a struggling pack.

The game at Lansdowne Road was also only the third start Pretorius has had for South Africa in 2006. It is true that he does not have an impressive record in the Northern Hemisphere, but an extended run on this tour would have been the perfect opportunity for White and his management team to assess the extent of his capability in these conditions; a necessary evaluation as they start to finalise their World Cup squad. As the coach himself stated, he knows what James has to offer.

“We’d like to see how certain players perform in different combinations,” he explained. “We know what our best match 22 is, and now it’s just a matter of finding those other eight to take to France. Depth is vital for winning World Cups.”

White was reluctant to lay all his cards on the table, and when asked the question of whether he had indeed found his flyhalf to win the World Cup, he skirted around the issue. It seems likely that by the end of this tour the Springbok management will be no closer to finding any finite answers to South African rugby’s most important question.

“Except for New Zealand, I think every team in the whole world is looking for the perfect 10,” he quipped.

By Jon Cardinelli, in Bath, England