It has been speculated that Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies could be the last time we see Butch James in the Springbok flyhalf position.
The Cape Times reports that after a bright start against Wales, James’s form has steadily dropped. But what is the solution to South Africa’s flyhalf woes? Who should wear the No 10 jersey on the end-of-year tour to Europe?
Should Peter de Villiers stick with James and hopes he comes good again? Or should the coach look to the Currie Cup for the answer?
We asked those questions to three of South Africa’s top flyhalves from the past.
Naas Botha (former Springbok captain and flyhalf)
Peter Grant is out at the moment. He was the player that was next in line, but he’s injured. Of the other guys, there isn’t really a flyhalf who has put up his hand and said: “Listen, I am here.” We are in a bit of a hole at the moment because it’s Butch and then Peter Grant, who is injured. And that’s all that we have because at one point, there was just no one who came through and said: “Listen, I’m good enough to take over.”
You are totally right. Answers will hopefully be found in the Currie Cup now for the problems in the flyhalf position. And I am sure that those players must get an opportunity at the end of the year. But the way we are going, the tour is the same as the Tri-Nations – the games need to be won.
The Boks’ biggest problem in this Tri-Nations has been tactical play. And that has to come from the flyhalf. So then Earl Rose and Morné Steyn need to find the answers and get an opportunity on the end-of-year tour. Once the Springboks go back to their provinces, the standard of the Currie Cup will certainly change. So then there will be much more pressure on those two flyhalves to show us that they are good enough.
Without the Springboks, the standard of the Currie Cup may not be high enough to measure a player’s readiness to play for the Springboks because there won’t be enough pressure on him.
It is up to them and Peter Grant, when he plays again, to go out there and use their chance now to stamp their authority on matches. I have seen in the last few international matches that a flyhalf’s role in the team has become very important.
Look, I don’t think it is the end for Butch, but he plays club rugby in England. I believe that his contract would allow him to play for the Boks on the end-of-year tour, but while I think he did start off very well this year, he didn’t give us all the answers that we wanted to see. Let’s be honest, he did play well against Wales, but then things haven’t worked out 100 percent for him. I think, during the last few games that the Boks have lost, we have not seen the answers in the flyhalf position.
I don’t know if the team struggles are affecting his game. It is difficult to gauge that from the outside. But we expect much more direction and control from 8, 9 and 10. We just don’t look good and don’t look like we are in control. When you look at Carter and Giteau, and those are fair yardsticks as they are the direct opponents, they make their opponents work for anything that they may want to do. They kick the ball in behind the defences, whereas it looks as if the Boks just kick straight to where the opponents are. And that places the Boks under tremendous pressure. The Boks then stay on the defence because their opponents will counter-attack.
One thing that I don’t understand – and it is something that I actually want to talk to the coach about – is why the guys don’t kick the ball out when they should. Don’t they want to kick the ball out or are they just unable to kick the ball out?
The guys need to work things out. When they talk about running rugby, it doesn’t mean that they must run the ball out of the 22. Maybe there must be low-risk in their own half and high-risk in the opposition’s half.
We are certainly creating enough opportunities, but then the ball is knocked on or a player becomes isolated. We also see that with certain of the ball carriers, the rest of the world knows that guy just doesn’t pass the ball, even if he gets a two-on-one situation.
Let’s give credit: there are things that the Boks are doing very well, but there are still silly mistakes being made. If somebody knocks the ball on, is that the coach’s fault? Don’t tell me he goes out and teaches the guys to drop kick-offs. So one cannot blame the coach for everything. The players need to take responsibility for their mistakes and get things right.
If the Boks win, then the guys can stay in the team. But if they are losing, then there are always positions open.
Errol Tobias (former Springbok flyhalf and inside centre)
There are definitely problems at flyhalf. There are also problems at lock, in the loose forwards and on the wings. We don’t have enough firepower out wide. And some of those problems have arisen because of the problems at Nos 9 and 10.
It is clear that there is very little direction coming from the flyhalf channel. So now Peter de Villiers has to look at the youngsters coming through, as the veterans are not doing the business. Butch has had many injuries and more than enough chances to play. He offers almost nothing on attack.
Peter Grant is the next in line, but he got injured when he was in the squad. He will play in the Currie Cup now, so he’s got to perform again.
There is also Morné Steyn and Earl Rose, who are playing quite well in the Currie Cup at the moment. I don’t know who’s better of the two. Steyn has a bit more experience than Rose, while they have very different styles of playing.
I don’t know what Peter’s plans are with Ruan Pienaar as a possible flyhalf, but I think Francois Steyn should be the second fullback to Conrad Jantjes. Steyn takes too long to clear the ball to be a flyhalf. Derick Hougaard could have been an option, but he has now gone to England. There is a spot open at No 10 now, so that is also a challenge for the provincial coaches to develop a flyhalf for the Springboks.
Joel Stransky (1995 World Cup-winning Springbok flyhalf)
Undoubtedly I feel that Butch James should be the Springbok flyhalf on the end-of-year tour. He knows the conditions in the UK well and is familiar with the surroundings, having played for Bath last season. Butch was fantastic last year and was central to the World Cup triumph. So I think all the criticism being directed towards Butch is totally unfair.
One has to look at the new game plan being used and the absolute lack of structure in the Springbok game at the moment for the problems. The backline has not got a lot of possession this season, so I find it hard that the media can blame one person for all the Boks’ problems.
All the players are playing badly. Apart from Adrian Jacobs maybe, no one in that side is worthy of being called world champions. And that is happening because they are struggling with the game plan.
I would probably go with Peter Grant as Butch’s back-up if he becomes fit again and plays well in the Currie Cup. He has made an impact every time he has come off the bench for the Boks. I also think Frans Steyn is a fullback and not a flyhalf.Tweet