Butch: I’m open to coming home

Butch James would consider returning to South Africa if he felt he had a crack at being in the Springbok mix.

Despite his assertions to the contrary it is believed Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will meet with European-based World Cup winning Springboks to talk about the possibility of returning to play in South Africa. De Villiers departs on February 8 to Europe.

James, the Springbok World Cup winning flyhalf, is currently in the early stages of a two-year deal with English Premiership club Bath. His form has been superb and has been central to their push for league honours.

James said he was “loving” his time at Bath, but conceded that an approach from De Villiers could be very appealing if the conditions were right.

“If I knew I had an opportunity to continue my international career for a couple years more I would consider it. I think I’m still good enough and I’d always be open to an approach. So if Peter could assure me of that, it would make it very hard to say no.”

James said the Sharks, for whom he played his entire professional career in South Africa, would be his first choice franchise should he return, but quickly added: “That’s only if they want me back.” The 28-year-old has had a series of knee injuries which have stifled his career, but seems to have moved past that difficult period.

He was last injured on the Springboks’ 2006 year-end tour to England and Ireland, but recovered to play the entire 2007 Super 14 and Tri-Nations (he was rested for the Australasian leg) and was the first choice pivot at the World Cup. But that streak came to an end on Sunday when he dislocated his shoulder in the process of scoring a try against Saracens. Bath looked rudderless without their general and succumbed to two Brent Russell tries, losing 26-20.

“I’m going for a scan tonight but it looks like anything from six to 12 weeks out of the game,” he said. “That’s really frustrating because I think I was playing some of the best rugby of my career.

“If it’s six weeks that’s not so bad because the Six Nations starts this weekend which would mean I wouldn’t miss any [Premiership] games but 12 weeks would be a killer because I want to play a major part in the team’s push for the title.”

Bath are currently placed third, just five points off leaders Gloucester.

By Ryan Vrede