Butch James has been in outstanding form during the past few months, says the man who will be the Springbok flyhalf’s direct opponent in the rugby Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
“Butch had a brilliant season with Bath,” Welsh pivot Stephen Jones said here on Wednesday.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that most South Africans have seen little of James since last year’s World Cup tournament but Jones was impressed by what he saw.
“We watch a lot of English rugby and Bath had a good season,” Jones said. “Butch controlled the game well, kicked well and played a physical kind of game.
“I cannot compare Butch’s game with the way he played earlier in his career but I can tell you he’s a fine flyhalf. He is a polished player and a good decision-maker. Butch is world class.”
The battle between Jones and James could have an important influence on Saturday’s match, the first of two Tests on successive Saturdays.
James may also have to handle the goal-kicking duties for South Africa if Percy Montgomery is not in the starting line-up.
Jones, who alternated with James Hook at flyhalf in Wales’ march to the Six Nations title this year, has come a long way since making his debut against coach Nick Mallett’s Springboks in 1998. Wales were beaten 96-13 that day.
Energy in the team is good
“That was a long time ago. I am really looking forward to this week’s match,” Jones said. “It will be a great challenge to us. But we trained well and the energy in the team is good.
“There is a lot of confidence in the squad, resulting from a culture of winning that has been established.
“It is important that we don’t stagnate after what we achieved in the Six Nations. We must move on and continue to develop.
“This is the strongest Welsh squad in several years, coming after a successful Six Nations campaign,” the classy flyhalf said.
Despite the number of players who had to stay at home because of injuries, Jones feels the backbone of the team that won the championship is still there.
“This is probably the most competitive Welsh team since I became involved. I know we’ve lost key players but there is strong competition in the squad and a tour of South Africa is a great opportunity for us.
“People who say we have a new scrumhalf forget that Gareth Cooper has played in over 30 Test matches. Sonny Parker is also a brilliant player in midfield.”
With Warren Gatland as coach, the Welsh defend well and in Jones they have an outstanding tactical kicker.
However, the Welsh have given no indication of the kind of rugby they want to play on Saturday
“What is important is that our defence is well organised; that everyone knows his role,” Jones added.
“Our defence was good during the Six Nations but we will simply have to raise our standards because the pressure and intensity will be higher on the World Cup champions’ home grounds.”Tweet