Butch to stay in Bath until June 2011

2010-12-11 00:00

BOTH the Golden Lions and Bath Rugby Club have denied reports that former Sharks and Springbok flyhalf Butch James has signed to play for the Lions next year.

Reports yesterday claimed that James had been lured back to South Africa by the Lions but, as the Sharks have already found, the burly flyhalf is under contract and Bath are adamant they will not release him until the end of the season (next June).

Lion president Kevin de Klerk conceded that his union has made desperate efforts to sign James ahead of next year’s Super 15.

“It’s no secret that we want back-up for Elton Jantjies. We were hoping to sign Butch but that now seems unlikely,” said De Klerk.

Bath CEO Nick Blofield said that the club would not release him before the end of the season, ruling the Springbok out of the Super 15.

He did suggest that negotiations for James could be held in June to allow the Bath flyhalf to return to South Africa ahead of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next September and the Lions are hoping to have him in Johannesburg for the Currie Cup.

The Lions, bankrolled by IT tycoon Robert Gumede, are reportedly prepared to pay R3 million to buy James out of the remainder of his contract.

Sharks commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli told the Weekend Witness yesterday that the Durban franchise was no longer pursuing the James option.

“We have already been down this road and Bath said no. They were also demanding a massive transfer fee.”

The Sharks now have two leading flyhalves under contract in new Springbok Pat Lambie and the Blue Bulls’ Jacques-Louis Potgieter while former Free State utility back Meyer Bosman provides further back-up.

James is highly regarded by Bath, both for his playing ability and his leadership, but his career has been dogged by injury and a damaged shoulder has sidelined the 31-year-old since the Tri-Nations.

The Lions have also been chasing another former Shark, utility back Frans Steyn, but his French club Racing Metro have also resisted attempts to bring the Springbok home.

Earlier attempts by the Lions to sign a number of senior Sharks, including John Smit, the Du Plessis brothers, Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen, have failed but they did sneak out the backdoor with Durban-based wing Lionel Mapoe after doing a deal with Free State.

Straeuli did confirm that he would be travelling to Britain over Christmas to see if there is any available talent which could boost the Sharks in the Super 15.

“We have a strong squad but there are perhaps one or two positions where we could add to our depth,” he said. “I’m mixing a family holiday with business. I’m not too hopeful because the better players are under contract, but you never know and I’ll have a good look around.”

Straeuli said that the Sharks’ three new signings, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Meyer Bosman and scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman, had joined the squad and were busy with pre-season conditioning.

The four players involved with rehabilitation after injury, John Smit, Jean Deysel, JP Pietersen and Ross Skeate, were all “working hard and looking good,” he added.

Deysel underwent surgery following a ligament tear four months ago but Straeuli said he should be ready by the second week of the Super 15 late in February.

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