Butch sidelined again

2009-04-24 00:00

BUTCH James, the Springboks’ World Cup-winning flyhalf, will not play against the 2009 British Lions, even if national coach Peter de Villiers wants him.

James, one of the Springboks’ unsung heroes at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, has again suffered a serious knee injury and will undergo surgery in London on Wednesday.

James, who has already had four knee operations, two on each leg, fought back from crippling injury to play in the 2007 World Cup and has since been contracted to leading English club Bath.

James suffered the most recent injury in Bath’s narrow win at Newcastle last weekend and will now miss his club’s Guinness Premiership run-in as well as South Africa’s three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

Mike James, Butch’s father, told The Weekend Witness last night that the injury was to the artificial ligament in his left knee.

“He is to spend two weeks in rehab over there and will then come back home for a couple of months. He will then return to Bath to help the club in their build-up to the new season.

“He is obviously disappointed to be missing the end of the club season over there and any chance of playing against the Lions, but he is also determined to play again. He has been through this before, the injury, the surgery and the rehab, and he knows he can get back and play again. He still has a three-year contract with Bath to honour,” said Mike James.

While Bok coach Peter de Villiers has committed himself to Ruan Pienaar as the Test flyhalf against the touring Lions, the injury to the experienced James, who turns 30 in July, leaves South Africa with few options. It is believed that James was “being kept on ice” by the selectors in case there were problems at flyhalf.

Pienaar, a natural ball-player but one who prefers scrumhalf, is still learning his trade at flyhalf and he has been sidelined for the past month with a knee injury. With Peter Grant playing at centre for the Stormers, and Frans Steyn still to settle at flyhalf for the Sharks, the Boks are relying heavily on Pienaar finding his form and dodging injury.

Earlier this week, former Springbok assistant coach Gert Smal, now in charge of the Irish Test pack, said James should be selected to play against the British Lions in June and July.

“You can’t play Test rugby without a goalkicker. Butch’s temperament and presence can also create space for the South African backs,” said Smal. “His form is good and his defence is strong. Butch gives the players around him a lot of confidence.”

Mike James said his son had been concerned about his fitness ahead of the Lions tour.

“It was a dream to play against the Lions, but Butch was worrying about his knees standing up to another full season in South Africa without a break. Now it is all academic,” he added.

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