Butch James admitted that he could have continued playing against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Sharks flyhalf was having the best Test of his career, creating opportunities for teammates and scoring himself, as well as putting in some punishing hits on defence, before Jake White opted to replace him with Andre Pretorius in the 60th minute.
The coach later said a knee injury to the pivot was the primary reason he decided to make the switch.
Pretorius had a shocker, just as he done in the Springboks 53-3 defeat at Twickenham in 2002, and placed his team under enormous pressure with a series of tactical kicks that failed to find the mark.
Scans later revealed that James had injured cruciate ligaments in his left knee.
“I stayed on for as long as possible, and in hindsight I suppose I could have kept going,” James told Jacques van der Westhuyzen of the Daily News.
“But in situations like those there’s always the danger of causing more damage and I didn’t want that to happen.”
The 27-year-old has struggled with reoccurring knee injuries over the last three seasons, which has resulted in him missing large chunks of the domestic season and subsequently missing out on Bok selection.
James was White’s first-choice flyhalf when he took charge of the team in 2004, but pulled out of the squad shortly before their season opening Test against Ireland.
While the latest injury setback has surely hit James hard, he opted to stay positive, drawing confidence from his mercurial display on Saturday.
“It was by far my best performance for South Africa. And I badly needed a performance like that,’ he said.
“There haven’t been too many opportunities for me to play for South Africa so I knew I needed a big game… I had to make this one count,” said James, who earned his 14th cap last weekend.
James attributed his performance to the solid attacking platform which the Bok forwards had set.
“We had the upperhand and were going forward most of the time. It’s disappointing we didn’t hang on and win the game though, because I believe we were the better side on the field.”