James blocked from Bok comeback, De Jongh in

2010-06-04 00:00

ENGLISH rugby officials have won their spiteful battle over Butch James and the Springbok will miss tomorrow’s Test against Wales at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.

The week’s tug of war over Butch James ended yesterday when the Springbok team was finalised with the former Sharks flyhalf being withdrawn and the 21-year-old Stormers centre Juan de Jongh handed his first international cap.

In further changes to the team initially announced a fortnight ago, veteran lock Victor Matfield replaces the injured Andries Bekker and Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner takes over from De Jongh on the bench.

James had hoped to reignite his Springbok challenge with a first appearance for the Springboks in two years, but the blinkered Premier Rugby officials in charge of club rugby in England refused to allow him to play because the Test falls outside the June release period for internationals, a restriction aimed at protecting the welfare of weary players.

Adding to the Springbok’s anger is that yesterday Saracens’ South African hooker Schalk Britz was released to play for the Barbarians against Ireland this weekend.

The SA Rugby Union were confident of securing James’s release yesterday when it emerged that he had a release clause to his Bath contract to play internationals.

However, Premier Rugby rules prevent the release of players to national unions, except for the final three Saturdays in June.

“Saru and Bath were keen for Butch to play but the rule has been strictly enforced,” said Regan Hoskins, president of Saru.

“What’s particularly frustrating is that Schalk Brits has just played 33 matches for Saracens and can be released to play for the Barbarians against Ireland this weekend, while Butch has played barely a dozen matches for Bath this season and he can’t play against Wales.”

Angry coach Peter de Villiers summed up the mood in the South African camp earlier yesterday when he said that if James was prevented from playing on Saturday the Springboks “would go home”.

But threats, pleas and diplomacy have all failed as petty officialdom prevailed and James will watch the Test from the grandstand.

While one door has closed on the Boks’ 2007 World Cup-winning flyhalf, another has opened for the talented, but inexperienced De Jongh, who will join his Stormers team-mate Jaque Fourie in the Springbok midfield.

De Jongh, who left the field during the Super 14 final with a thigh injury, yesterday passed a late fitness test, as did flank Dewald Potgieter.

De Jongh has played most of his rugby at outside centre, but De Villiers has long been an admirer of his ability.

“This is a great opportunity for Juan, who has had a fantastic Super 14 season,’ said De Villiers. “He is a talented player who has held his own in a very tough environment and I have faith in his abilities to make the step up.”

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

SPRINGBOK TEAM:

15 Frans Steyn, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 CJ van der Linde.

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Meyer Bosman, 21 Zane Kirchner, 22 Bjorn Basson.

 

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