South African Rugby
De Jongh debuts in place of James
June 3, 2010
Juan de Jongh will start for South Africa in Cardiff © Getty Images
Juan de Jongh will make his Test debut when South Africa take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, replacing Bath's Butch James at inside-centre.
The Stormers youngster, 22, has been promoted from the bench after it was confirmed that Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation for the Guinness Premiership clubs, would not permit James to be released for the game, which falls outside of the IRB's designated Test window.
While James has been left to rue a missed opportunity to resurrect his international career, de Jongh is focusing on making a mark alongside his Stormers team-mate Jaque Fourie and Sharks fly-half Ruan Pienaar.
"This is almost unbelievable, but it's an exciting moment for me too," he said. "I feel for Butch, but I must now focus on what the team needs from me on Saturday. It's good to be playing with experienced players like Ruan and Jaque and my experience playing with Jaque in Super 14 will also be a great help."
SARU president Oregan Hoskins was angered by Premier Rugby's stance and he had earlier hoped to secure James' release as there were no player welfare issues at stake. As it stands, Premier Rugby will only consent to players being released to their unions on the final three weekends in June, with special dispensation made for the Barbarians and British & Irish Lions.
"SARU, Bath and Butch were all keen to see Butch play but the rule has been strictly enforced," Hoskins said. "What's particularly frustrating is that Schalk Brits has just played 33 matches for Saracens and can be released to play for the Barbarians against Ireland this weekend, whereas Butch has played barely a dozen matches this season and he can't play against Wales."
Coach Peter De Villiers also announced changes to the Springboks' pack and bench, with veteran lock Victor Matfield starting alongside Danie Rossouw after Andries Bekker was forced to withdraw with a foot injury and Zane Kirchner taking de Jongh's spot among the replacements.