Former Springbok flyhalf emerges

2015-06-24 06:00
PHOTO: supplied

Butch James,

PHOTO: supplied Butch James,

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IT has been two years since former Springbok flyhalf, Butch James was last seen playing professional rugby. Since his retirement James has been using his rugby achievements and experience to make an impact in the lives of young players.

At the end of the month, with other greats of rugby, James will be coaching at the Investec International Rugby Academy’s June course in PMB.

James began his professional rugby career in 1999 as a provincial player for the Sharks and the Natal Wildebeests. During this time he also represented South Africa in the Rugby Championship tournament (formerly Tri-Nations) and was an IRB Rugby World Cup winner in 2007. Shortly after this achievement, James was offered a spot in England’s Bath rugby team to play out the rest of his career. He however, returned in 2011 to play for the Golden Lions and finally, returned to his home team, the Sharks, in 2013.

After James announced his retirement at the end of 2013, he joined Varsity Shield side, with UKZN Impi’s head coach John Mitchell, as backline and kicking coach.

Now James will be returning to his home town, Pietermaritzburg, to coach alongside other rugby greats at the Investec International Rugby Academy’s Players’ and Coaches’ courses taking place from 27 June to 3 July at St Charles College.

Based on the successful training model of the New Zealand Rugby Academy, the Investec International Rugby Academy, which was started in 2009 by former Sharks coach and Springbok backline coach, Dick Muir, plays an important role in the professional careers of many of SA’s rugby players and coaches.

The academy courses offer more than just physical skills training and development – they give enrolees an in-depth opportunity to look into the lives of top level players, providing them with an understanding of what it takes to make it at the top level. James believes that the only way to make it in rugby is to embrace opportunity whole-heartedly.

This year the week-long courses offer a rare opportunity, for players and coaches, to learn from local and international rugby icons. Player’s courses on offer in June are the Prestige Players Course (aged eight to 11), the Intermediate Players Course (aged 12 to 15), the Advanced Players Course (aged 16 to 18) and the Elite Players Course (aged 18 and older). Coaches’ courses on offer are the Prestige Coaches’ Course, the Intermediate Coaches’ Course and the Advanced Coaches’ Course.

James shares the sentiment that other coaches at the Investec International Academy have about using their experience and knowledge to give back to the youth.

“Seeing the boys implement what you have coached them and the smile on their faces when what you teach them improves their game, is so rewarding,” said James.

“If I had had an opportunities like the Investec International Rugby Academy before I started my career, it would have helped so much. Only after playing professionally for a couple of years do you gain the insight that the coaches at the academy can teach you. The best thing about the academy are the coaches,” added James.

Coaches for the June courses include former Rugby World Cup players’ John Allan (1991) and Werner Swanepoel (1999), former Springbok’s assistant coach Dick Muir, former British Lions coach Andy Keast, ex-Wallabies kicking coach Braam van Straaten, ex-Springbok assistant coach and current Sharks coach Gary Gold, former Sharks coach Grant Bashford and All-Blacks, Chiefs and Blues technical advisor Nico le Roux.

Boys can look forward to learning from former Springboks Dick Muir, Gcobani Bobo, Ian MacDonald and most capped South African Rugby Player Jacques Botes as well as local coaches Ryan Strudwick and Greg Miller­.

In addition to the professional coaches involved in the academy, international referee, Mark Lawrence, will be teaching the theories behind the game of rugby and its laws.

Rugby stalwarts Peter de Villiers (2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cup coach) and Ian McIntosh (Springbok coach, selector and director of Natal Rugby in the nineties) are also part of the line-up. Behind the scenes training is also a feature of the academy and specialists such as Mark Steele (former Springbok conditioning coach) and Tim Goodenough (meta-coach) will be teaching the physical and mental aspects of rugby.

Playing rugby is more than just becoming a professional and, according to James, many skills can be learnt from the game that will be needed later in life.

“The game of rugby teaches the keys to success in all aspects of life. Punctuality, discipline and doing your best in the team are vital skills in rugby and in life.

“The academy is a way for the boys to learn all of this and more from the experienced players,” said James.

James shares general manager of the Investec International Rugby Academy, Miller’s coaching ideology, which outlines the hands-on training one can expect from the academy’s courses.

“Coaching is about understanding the team environment. In a team there are 15 unique individuals and, as a coach, you have to know how to deal with each one - his strengths, weaknesses and his position and not to generalise in order to get through to him. The coaches for the June course have been specifically selected to ensure we offer the boys the best coaching available,” said Miller.

For further information contact Bernadine at 031 940 5565 or visit

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