South African Rugby
James sets sights on Springboks shirt
ESPNscrum Staff
June 25, 2011
Lions fly-half Butch James offers instruction, Hurricanes v Lions, Super Rugby, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, June 4, 2011
James linked up with the Lions last month following a two-year stint with Bath in the English Premiership © Getty Images

Butch James is out to make the Springboks' No.10 jersey his own ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup.

The 32-year-old, who recently linked up with the Johannesburg-based Lions after a three-and-a-half year stint with English Premiership side Bath, is determined to spearhead South Africa's defence of the sport's biggest prize having been a key figure in the side that lifted the Webb Ellis Cup four years ago.

"I don't think I'm in a more favourable position to the other guys," he told Independent Online, "there are still some games to be played before the World Cup comes along and a lot can happen in that time.

"There's still everything to play for but, I'll be honest, I'm hoping to be the number one, the first choice. It's always much nicer to run on to the field for a Test than to come on halfway through. The fact I've been considered for the squad even though I've been based overseas and have only had a handful of games in Super Rugby is very reassuring ... I know I've got a good chance, but I also know it's in my hands."

James, capped 40 times by the Boks, is set to vie with the Bulls' Morne Steyn, who has been his country's first-choice for the past two seasons, and the Sharks' rising star Patrick Lambie for the playmaker role with all three set to get the nod for the tournament in New Zealand.

"There's even more competition now for that jersey than there was four years ago," he added. "There's Morné, Pat is up there and even Peter Grant still has a chance ... he's been playing great rugby. And Elton Jantjies, too, has been in the picture, even though he may still be a bit young."

The former Sharks also revealed that he had become frustrated during the last few months of his stay in England. "I really wasn't enjoying myself at Bath before I left; it wasn't like it was in my first two years there," he explained.

"I was frustrated with myself and wanted to do things on the field, but my skills weren't up to scratch, I wasn't as fit as I should have been ... and that snowballed. When you're not playing well it gets frustrating and isn't very enjoyable. But there's a new energy in me now ... I'm part of a new (Lions) team and really want to do well. A change of scenery is always good, it lifts you up and brings new energy."

James is now determined to channel that energy into South Africa's defence of the sport's biggest prize. "I've known for a while my career is nearing its end and I really wanted to play in South Africa again. And with all the injuries I've had I know that the next big one will mean the end of my rugby. And because I didn't want any regrets I decided to come home.

"That was the main reason for wanting to come back. I wanted another year and half at home ... and also, playing in South Africa would allow the selectors to see me play so the fact I've played a bit of Super Rugby hopefully gives me a chance of going to the World Cup."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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