Sharks welcome Butch back

2013-06-28 00:00

BUTCH James has come full circle and after six years on foreign fields is back in the Sharks’ Super Rugby line-up.

The former Springbok flyhalf will play at inside centre in tomorrow’s clash with the Auckland Blues at King’s Park and his inclusion is one of three changes to the side narrowly beaten by the Bulls in the Sharks’ last Super Rugby outing before the June international break.

The 34-year-old James left the Sharks to join English club Bath where he spent four years before spending two seasons with the Golden Lions. He signed for the Sharks this year, but underwent knee surgery in February and only saw action for the first time last Friday when he played for 45 minutes in the friendly against the Lions before leaving the field with a rib injury.

He yesterday passed a fitness test and will join Louis Ludik, a specialist fullback, in a makeshift Sharks midfield.

Ludik, who also returned from injury against the Lions, and James have been press-ganged into midfield roles following the sidelining of five centres, Frans Steyn, Tim Whitehead, Meyer Bosman, Paul Jordaan and Marius Joubert.

The third change to the Sharks team is at lock where new Griqua signing, the 117 kg, two-metre tall second-rower Edwin Hewitt, takes over from the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards, who have taken over from discarded head coach John Plumtree, have opted to play Springbok Bismarck du Plessis off the bench and the in-form Kyle Cooper retains the hooking berth.

Others returning to the bench from injury are scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and flank Jacques Botes.

Number eight Ryan Kankowski remains out in the cold in spite of the indifferent form shown this season by captain Keegan Daniel. Replacement prop Wiehahn Herbst, who damaged a knee against the Lions, faces a late fitness test.

Sharks Academy fullback/flyhalf Jaco van Tonder is the second backline replacement, while five forwards are included on the bench.

“The Blues have always had a willingness to play from all areas of the field and if you look at the players they have — certainly in the backline — they have x-factor players all over the field,” said Bashford.

Veteran lock Ali Williams will make his 100th appearance for the Blues tomorrow but coach John Kirwan has opted to start two of his current five All Blacks squad members — hooker Keven Mealamu and centre Rene Ranger — on the bench.

The five were involved in the third Test against France at the weekend.

Scrumhalf Piri Weepu, flank Steven Luatua and fullback Charles Piutau are in the Blues’ starting line-up.

Kirwan said the disruption caused by late arrivals of key players had been off-set by the enthusiasm the new All Blacks had injected into the camp.

“It was really important that these guys [Mealamu and Ranger] got home after they’d been with the All Blacks so our first training run together was only on Wednesday,” Kirwan said.

The match kicks off earlier than originally scheduled — at 2.50 pm — with South African Jaco Peyper the referee.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Butch James, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Edwin Hewitt, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Daniel Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Jandre Marais, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Jaco van Tonder

Blues: 15. Charles Piutau, 14. Frank Halai, 13. Jackson Willison, 12. Francis Saili, 11. George Moala, 10. Chris Noakes, 9. Piri Weepu, 8. Peter Saili, 7. Luke Braid, 6. Steven Luatua, 5. Ali Williams (captain), 4. Anthony Boric, 3. Angus Ta’avao, 2. James Parsons, 1. Tim Perry.

Replacements: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18. Kane Barrett /Culum Retallick, 19. Brendon O’Connor, 20. Jamison Gibson-Park, 21.Baden Kerr, 22. Rene Ranger.

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