Having arrived in England just days after the Springboks’ record Tri-Nations romp over Australia, Butch James is back in his Bath jersey for Sunday’s Premiership opener against Bristol.
Rugby 365 reports that the irrepressible ‘Butch’ is surely on his way toward burnout, after what seems almost two years worth of uninterrupted rugby commitments.
Shortly after representing his former union (the Sharks) for their 2007 Super 14 campaign, the 29-year-old flyhalf went on to represent South Africa (SA) for the inbound tours, Tri-Nations and then a taxing World Cup campaign.
Not long after lifting the Webb Ellis trophy with his Springbok teammates, James arrived in the United Kingdom to join his new club, Bath, for their 2007/08 Premiership season and also helping them win the European Challenge Cup in May this year.
James was then straight back in SA to pull on the Green and Gold, playing almost every international at pivot between June and the end of August.
Nonetheless, James is keen to get back into his Bath colours again – feeling comfortable with his fitness and energy levels and looking to put in a strong performance in the local derby at the Memorial stadium.
He will again team up with compatrion Michael Claassens in an all-Springbok halfback combination.
“It is good to be back in this beautiful city,” James told bathrugby.com.
“I am still feeling good and these first two games are really big for us, so I was keen to play against Bristol.
“I am raring to go and really looking forward to Sunday,” he added.
Head Coach Steve Meehan echoed James’ enthusiasm for the match ahead, having suffered a defeat against Edinburgh last Friday night in the final of Bath’s pre-season friendly matches.
Highlighting one of the mistakes last Friday, Meehan is confident that the team can rectify their errors.
“We did not provide ourselves with quick and clean ball at the ruck against Edinburgh, but everyone is aware what is necessary to win,” Meehan said.
“A match against Bristol is always special and I am sure that both teams will come out and deliver something worthy of a Guinness Premiership opening fixture.”
Having been used to playing Bristol a little later on in the season in previous years, Meehan reflected on the impact that may have on his team’s mindset.
“Having a local derby as your first match may focus the mind a little bit more, but only time will really be able to tell that.
“However, I am sure the supporters are feeling as excited about it as we are,” Meehan added.
Due to late fitness tests, Josh Ovens, Tom Cheeseman, Aaron Jarvis, Mike Baxter and Jack Cuthbert will also be travelling with the team.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Jonny Faamatuainu, 7 Michael Lipman (captain), 6 Stuart Hooper, 5 Peter Short, 4 Justin Harrison, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Barnes.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Duncan Bell, 18 David Flatman, 19 James Scaysbrook, 20 Scott Bemand, 21 Shaun Berne, 22 Andrew Higgins.