Springbok flyhalf Butch James has warned that the never-ending schedule of competitive rugby matches will force more players to join him on the international sidelines in future.
Rugby 365 reports that James, a World Cup winner with South Africa in France last year, said that modern players play an “unsustainable” number of games, and that the schedule overload was a contributing factor to his decision to retire from internationals next year.
James turned out for English club Bath against Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership on Saturday – a game Bath lost 17-21 as James endured a horror show with the boot, in what will be the 34th competitive game of his endless season – including 15 Tests.
Last year he played an entire Super 14 tournament with the Sharks, then all but two of South Africa’s mid-year internationals, before helping the Boks to win the World Cup.
He joined Bath straight after the tournament in France for a full season of Premiership and European matches, before returning to South Africa for the mid-year international season.
A full Premiership season, a European Cup campaign, a potential end-of-year tour with the Boks and a series against the British Lions next year are still to come.
The domestic English season has just begun, but James has had no recovery time after a hectic year.
James had to report back for duty with Bath barely a week after helping the Boks to victory in France last year, and his presence helped his club to trophy success in the European Challenge Cup.
And as soon as Bath’s season was over, it was time for James to join Peter de Villiers’ Springboks for a gruelling international season involving 10 Tests, before lining up for Bath once again.
“It’s not sustainable,” James told The Guardian newspaper. “It’s pretty tough and I don’t think it’s advisable either. You’re going to break down somewhere along the line.
“There’s no way I could continue doing this.”
James said his decision to quit international rugby after the Lions tour, at the age of 30, was “irreversible”.
He is undecided whether to re-sign with Bath for the 2009/10 season or to rejoin the Sharks in Durban.
“Even if I did go back to the Sharks, the Lions would be the end of it. I need to give the body a break,” he said.
“You can feel when it’s time and I think it’ll be time next July.
“Sometimes it’s just the sight of another training pitch, especially when it’s raining like it has been. It’s not easy, even if the guys around you are helping you out.”
He added: “There are a lot of guys at home [in South Africa] who started their Test careers very young and you can see how sore their bodies are.
“I don’t think there’s any way they’ll still be going into their early thirties. Someone like Schalk Burger really throws his body around in every single game. I don’t think he’s going to be able to play much beyond 28 if he wants to play with his kids one day.”Tweet