Butch: Boks too good to be down for long

Butch James (Gallo Images)
Butch James (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - He was a man who played an understated role at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, but those who were close to the Springbok squad during that time say he was as influential as anyone in the tournament. 

Percy Montgomery had the goal-kicking duties while the Boks used the big boot of Frans Steyn often from open play, but it was flyhalf Butch James' defence, tactical awareness and his ability to do the basics well that made him such a vital cog in Jake White's tournament-winning team. 

Now, 10 years on, James (38) still loves the game as much as ever. 

He is involved at SuperSport as a commentator and studio analyst, but 2017 promises to be a big year as the 'Remembering 2007' campaign is launched - an initiative that will see members of that World Cup squad join forces to raise money for charity through a series of events throughout 2017. 

Of course, a lot has changed since 2007. 

The Boks have gone from world champions to a place where defeats to Japan and Italy now hang over them. 

In 2016, under the leadership of new coach Allister Coetzee, the Boks won just 4 of their 12 Tests. 

It is certainly one of the darkest times in the history of South African rugby, and with Coetzee's future still somewhat unclear, fans could be forgiven for moving into 2017 with a sense of trepidation. 

But, according to James, the only way is 'up'.

"We've got so many great rugby players in this country that there can only be one way, and that's up," he told Sport24 on Wednesday night.

"There is always optimism and this is a chance to look forward.

"In 2007 it had been 12 years since we won the World Cup (1995). Let's hope that at the next World Cup (2019) we can make some new memories."

James will also be paying close attention to Super Rugby this season, and while he finished his career at the Lions, the Sharks will always be home. 

He expects a new-look Sharks side to be exciting under the guidance of coach Robert du Preez, but he warns not to expect too much from them. 

"Talking to some of the players, apparently they've worked a lot on their fitness so let's hope that they're a nice fit team," he said of the Durbanites in 2017.

"That always helps them to play a good brand of rugby. I know that Rob (Du Preez, coach) does also want to play that attractive brand of rugby. Let's see how it goes.

"It'll be tough. It's quite a young squad, I think, and there is a bit of inexperience there but we'll see how they go. I think Rob is doing a good job."

It is also a big year for Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie, who has been plagued by injury for the last three Super Rugby seasons. 

"I hold thumbs for him. He's a great player and he needs that rhythm. He needs that time on the field and I'm hoping that he gets through the whole of the campaign," said the 38-year-old James. 

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