Butch wanted millions - Sharks
Butch James (Gallo Images)
Durban - Butch James’ request for “millions of rand” and the demand by Bath Rugby Club for a transfer fee ended the Sharks’ attempts to contract the 31-year-old Springbok fly-half ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
This was confirmed by Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl following an astonishing attack by James who blamed the Durban franchise for ruining his chances of playing in the World Cup.
James told the Bath Chronicle that the Sharks had suddenly dropped negotiations with him and made him look “like an idiot to my club (Bath) and team-mates”.
Van Zyl told the Weekend Witness that James, in Durban at the time, had approached the Sharks back in December about a possible move back to the franchise.
The Sharks, with the loss of first Juan Hernandez to a back injury and then Steve Meyer for personal reasons, were desperately short of a quality fly-half and they initially responded positively to James’ overtures.
“But there have been two stumbling blocks,” said Van Zyl. “First, through his agent, Butch was looking for us to pay millions of rand for his services for a two-year contract. In fact, he wanted much, much more than any of our senior Springbok players are receiving.
“Second, his club (Bath) wanted us to pay them a transfer fee. We were not prepared to pay a transfer fee because they did not pay us anything when we released Butch to them nearly three years ago and when he was still under contract to us.”
James had signed a two-year deal with Bath in July 2007 after the Sharks, concerned with his on-going injury problems, would only extend his contract by one year.
Van Zyl said he was surprised by James’ outburst this week because shortly after he expressed an interest about returning to the Sharks he signed a new two-year deal with Bath.
“I don’t know where the negotiations broke down, but it was very embarrassing for me,” James told the Chronicle.
“The Sharks handled it in a scandalous manner. I have no problem with the way Bath conducted themselves. They were always upfront with me, but from a Sharks point of view the negotiations were one big embarrassment.
“The door was just suddenly closed from their side. It put me in a difficult position. It was 90% certain that I would return home and I was eager to play for them again. All of a sudden the rug was pulled from underneath me and I’m not happy about it at all.”
Van Zyl said that he found James’ reaction astonishing.
“It is very obvious where negotiations broke down. He wanted millions of rand and Bath wanted a transfer fee. We are not is a position to pay either,” Van Zyl said, “much as we would love to have Butch back playing for the Sharks.”
It is also believed that SA Rugby turned down a request to offer James a Springbok contract.
Ironically, James could be back in a Springbok jersey early next month when a hastily-arranged Test match against Wales will be played in Cardiff on June 5.
Bok coach Peter de Villiers has said that he will make use of overseas players for that Test because many current Springboks could be involved in the Super 14 final the week before.