The 32-year-old admits that the World Cup wouldn't have even been on his agenda had he faced Sir Ian McGeechan's tourists but the latest global gathering now means more to him than ever.
"I really wanted to be part of the team that beat the British & Irish Lions ... I was ready to call it quits after that," James told IOL.
"However, I missed out on that series because I'd done my knee. I said to myself then that I'd give it one more go, perhaps push for a place in the squad for 2011. That's where I want to be."
And James looks to have a great chance of being there. Springbok boss Peter de Villiers named James in his extended squad for the lead up to the World Cup and you won't find too many critics who expect the veteran playmaker to miss out on a place in the final 30.
Morne Steyn may be the man in position of the coveted No10 shirt but James fancies his chances of being the main man for a second World Cup in a row.
"There's still everything to play for but, I'll be honest, I'm hoping to be the number one, the first choice," added James.
"It's always much nicer to run on to the field for a Test than to come on halfway through. The fact I've been considered for the squad even though I've been based overseas and have only had a handful of games in Super Rugby is very reassuring ... I know I've got a good chance, but I also know it's in my hands."
James brought a four-year stint at Bath to an end earlier this year, returning to his homeland with the aim of being selected for this autumn's international showpiece in New Zealand.
The former Sharks star, who guided the Boks to World Cup glory in 2007, joined the Johannesburg-based Lions for the latter stages of the Super 15 season and he admits he's feeling the best he has for a long while about his all-round game.
"I'm feeling good at the moment, there's nothing serious that's bugging me, except for a few niggles here and there, but I've come off a long season and rugby players are never 100-percent anyway.
"I've known for a while my career is nearing its end and I really wanted to play in South Africa again. And with all the injuries I've had I know that the next big one will mean the end of my rugby. And because I didn't want any regrets I decided to come home.
"That was the main reason for wanting to come back. I wanted another year and half at home ... and also, playing in South Africa would allow the selectors to see me play so the fact I've played a bit of Super Rugby hopefully gives me a chance of going to the World Cup."