Stransky backs Butch for Boks

Joel Stransky believes Butch James should be South Africa's first-choice fly-half at this year's World Cup. [more]

Stransky backs Butch for Boks

Joel Stransky believes Butch James should be South Africa’s first-choice fly-half at this year’s World Cup.

James is locked in a three-way battle with Morne Steyn and mercurial youngster Patrick Lambie ahead of the start of the latest global gathering in September.

And while it is Bulls pivot Steyn who is the current incumbent of the No10 shirt, Stransky is backing James to be given the nod for the tournament opener against Wales in Wellington.

“I’m not sure right now that the Boks have an idea of who that starting fly-half is going to be. To be fair, the way he has played, it should probably be Butch,” said Stransky, who guided the Springboks to World Cup glory in 1995, 12 years before James followed suit.

“I assume that is the thinking, and they would probably leave him at home for the Tri-Nations tour coming up.

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“I would go for Butch. His ability to make decisions, to play closer to the gainline, defending that channel, all of that, plus his experience, means for me that he would be the fly-half.”

While James has been talked up in numerous quarters following his move to the Johannesburg-based Lions following four years in England with Bath, there are three major question marks surrounding his possible selection.

The first is his ability as a goal kicker, with Steyn seen as far superior in that department. The second is his much-publicised disciplinary history which reared its ugly head again just last month when he was suspended for four weeks for a dangerous tackle on Sharks flanker Keegan Daniel. And the third is uncertainty over his durability following a series of knee problems, one of which ruled him out of contention for the Boks’ 2009 series against the Lions.

For Stransky, James’ kicking won’t be an issue but his long-term fitness and occasional disciplinary slip could yet count against him.

“Butch’s kicking game has improved dramatically since the last World Cup, and even in that tournament, he kicked out of hand really well,” added Stransky.

“He looks comfortable as a goal-kicker too, and looks natural. With his experience, they won’t look past him.

“There is only one thing – whether he will stay on the field. It’s those hot-headed tackles every now and then, and he has had three or four knee reconstructions. His longevity might be an issue.”

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