Butch says bye to Boks

2012-04-17 00:00

BUTCH James, who overcame a series of chronic knee problems to become the most capped flyhalf in Springbok history, yesterday announced he was quitting Test rugby.

The robust James, who made his Springbok debut in 2001 and played in last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, will continue playing at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level for the Lions.

The 33-year-old former Sharks flyhalf, a product of Maritzburg College, played in 42 Tests and was one of the Springboks’ unsung heroes when they won the RWC in Paris in 2007.

James made his Sharks debut in 1999 and played in 65 Currie Cup and 57 Super Rugby games. He played most of his rugby for the Sharks in a career frequently punctuated by serious knee operations, but more recently joined Bath and is now under contract to the Lions.

He has been capped 14 times by the Lions: three times in the Currie Cup last year when he helped them win the title and 11 in Super Rugby. He was also a popular member of English side Bath and made 68 appearances for the club.

James said the decision to retire at Test level had been a difficult one.

“I’ve had a great career playing for South Africa, the Sharks, Bath and the Lions, but I’m not getting any younger and I know this was the right decision to make, even though it was very difficult,” he said yesterday.

“I think I’ve got one or two more years of rugby left in me and all I want to concentrate on at this stage is to give nothing less than 100% on the field and enjoy my game.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a long career playing at the top level and I’ll look back at my time with the Springboks with nothing but fondness.”

James’s decision has been prompted by his inclusion this week in the Springbok planning squad by new coach Heyneke Meyer, but the presence of a number of talented young South African flyhalves, among them Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie, Free Stater Johan Goosen and the Lions’ Elton Jantjies, was no doubt also a factor.

Meyer said he was sorry to hear of James’s retirement.

“Butch was an integral part of the Springbok team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2007 and he’s been a great servant of the game over more than a decade. He contacted me to inform me of his decision to retire and I respect that,” said Meyer.

“I really wanted to have him here with us [at the camp], as he brings a wealth of experience with him and it would have been great for many of the younger players to work with him, but I understand that he wants to concentrate on his career with the Lions and I can’t fault that.” James, an uncompromising defender, is recognised as one of the most physical flyhalves in Test rugby, but he also possessed sublime handling skills and a good boot.

Had it not been for a succession of knee injuries, he would have made an even greater impact as Springbok.

BUTCH’S BOK CAREER:

Tests - 42

Points - 154

Tries - 3

Major honours: 2007 World Cup winner

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