Butch in the middle of tug of war

2010-06-02 00:00

BUTCH James has found himself in the middle of a tug of war with English rugby officials, with the Springboks insisting they will defy a Premier Rugby directive and field the Bath flyhalf against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Premier Rugby, the body controlling the professional game in England, said last night that South Africa will be reported to the International Rugby Board (IRB) today and James will be ordered not to play against Wales.

The Guardian newspaper reported that the Springboks are adamant that James will play, claiming that the Test has been sanctioned by the IRB.

“If Butch James is not released back to Bath, we will report South Africa to the IRB,” a Premier Rugby spokesman said. “The board would have no choice but to rule in our favour. Our policy was agreed unanimously by the 12 Premiership clubs and we are sticking to it. There will be no exceptions.”

James told The Guardian that he is reluctant to comment on the confusion.

“I cannot say too much because the matter is in the hands of the South African management, but I am desperate to play against Wales.

“Bath have said they are happy for me to play and how can anyone tell a player that he is not allowed to represent his country? It is two years since I last wore the Springbok jersey and the game against Wales is my chance to show I am worthy of a place in the squad for this year’s Test programme. I would love to be involved in next year’s World Cup and Saturday is a huge opportunity for me. I am hungry to play for the Boks again.”

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said that James “is going to play”.

“It is my job to make rugby decisions. I am in rugby because of the players, to help make them better people and provide for their families. It is wrong to hold anyone back. Bath do not have a problem with Butch playing and neither do I.”

De Villiers has injury problems with reserve centre Juan de Jongh, Andries Bekker and flank Dewald Potgieter all laid off after the Super 14 final, and a decision on their fitness will be taken today.

Ryan Kankowski provides cover for Potgieter and Alistair Hargreaves could take over from Bekker, but the Boks would then be short of back-up off the bench.

The Welsh yesterday named their team. Elusive wing and record try-scorer Shane Williams was omitted because of a shoulder injury and coach Warren Gatland has replaced him with Leigh Halfpenny. The major surprise comes with the selection of centre James Hook, who has delayed shoulder surgery to play in the Test.

The team is crowded with British Lions and the hastily-assembled Springboks face a major test.

“We are very much looking forward to the challenge of facing the number one team in the world at the Millennium Stadium in the glorious summer sunshine in front of our home crowd on Saturday,” said Gatland.

The Test kicks off at 3.30 pm (SA time) on Saturday.

WALES (15-1):

Lee Byrne; Leigh Halfpenny; James Hook; Jamie Roberts; Tom Prydie; Stephen Jones; Mike Phillips; Ryan Jones (capt); Sam Warburton; Jonathan Thomas; Bradley Davies; Deiniol Jones; Adam Jones; Matthew Rees; Paul James. Replacements: Huw Bennett; John Yapp; Alun Wyn Jones; Andy Powell; Richie Rees; Dan Biggar; Andrew Bishop.

• On the domestic front, Sanzar have delayed a decision on whether Stormers captain Schalk Burger will face disciplinary action following his outburst at the Super 14 final.

Burger alleged that referee Craig Joubert had been biased in applying different rules for the Stormers and the Bulls at the breakdown. Sanzar officials are studying evidence and a statement is expected today.

• Bulls wing Francois Hougaard is out of rugby for a month after undergoing surgery on his broken hand this week. Hougaard, named man of the match on Saturday, played in the final with a broken hand.

The Blue Bulls team doctor, Org Strauss, said that Hougaard, who is challenging for the wing position in the Springbok squad, will be fit when the team’s Currie Cup campaign kicks off on July 9.

• The Western Province Rugby Union are expected to announce on Friday that they have signed Springboks Jean de Villiers and CJ van der Linde.

Centre De Villliers will join WP immediately, but tight-head Van der Linde is returning to the Free State for the Currie Cup before joining the Stormers for next year’s Super 15.

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