Sharks

Sharks confirm Butch’s Bath time

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The Natal Sharks Rugby Union have officially confirmed the release of their star fly-half Butch James, who will join English club Bath after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

James, who has just turned 28, made his Sharks debut in 1999, before going on to play for the Springboks in 2001. A series of knee injuries have restricted James’s Test, Super 14 and Provincial appearances, but he remains a key man ahead of the 2007 World Cup in France – which is likely to be his international swansong.

“Butch James, one of the Sharks’ favourite sons has accepted an offer to see out his career at Bath in England,” read a statement from the Sharks Media Service on Tuesday afternoon. “Not for want of trying, the Sharks’ generous offer had to be weighed against the reality of his future playing career.

“Two seasons ago many would have laughed at the suggestion that we would see Butch back on the park, but with the incredible rehabilitation programme offered by the Sharks, coupled with his own guts and determination, Butch was able to deliver two more outstanding seasons that included a recall to the Springboks.”

James has long been linked with a move to Bath, who recently snapped up Bok scrum-half Michael Claassens from the Free State Cheetahs. Bath, however, had to fight of a late bid from neighbours Gloucester, who were also keen on acquiring the Bok fly-half’s services.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl added: “We are, however, mindful of the fact that Butch will be going into what is one the most strenuous tournaments of his playing career, and with a realistic history of a bad knee injury, we had to make a sound business decision to restrict our offer to a one-year contract. This paled against a two-year Pound/Euro deal.

“Butch has delivered more than we could ask for, but the time has come to allow him a lucrative swansong, and to invest the same money in the new, and exciting talent we have coming through and we believe we have sufficient cover at fly-half in the form of Francois Steyn and Fred Michalak.”

James will join the likes of John Smit, Bob Skinstad, Warren Britz, Grant Rees and Percy Montgomery in leaving Durban ahead of next season.

The exodus, however, is not just in Durban, with many top Western Province players having already put pen to paper abroad and a host of Blue Bulls stars – including Victor Matfield – heavily linked with overseas moves.

 

365 Digital

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