Rugby Championship

Butch backs 'old' campaigners

2015-07-23 21:10
Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)

Pretoria – Former Springbok pivot Butch James on Thursday gave a strong endorsement for the seasoned campaigners in the South African set-up ahead of the Rugby World Cup later this year.

James said the lack of experience was evident in the final 20 minutes of the Springboks’ 24-20 defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane over the weekend.

“It is great to have that mix (of experience) and we probably missed that in the last 20 minutes of the match against Australia and obviously Schalk Burger was leading the team but one out of the 15 is not enough,” James said at a Laureus Sport for Good function in Pretoria on Thursday.

“The more guys you have the better it will be in those close situations come 20 minutes to go.”

The Boks squandered a 20-7 lead in the last quarter of the match which James accounted to the lack of old head's on the park.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, however, has copped some criticism for selecting so-called 'old' players but James believed a good mix of experience and youth was needed going into the World Cup.

James, who boasts a 2007 Rugby World Cup winner’s medal, emphasised the value Victor Matfield added to the side in terms of securing good attacking ball from the lineout.

The 38-year-old Matfield is still one of the greatest lineout exponents in world rugby.

“I enjoy Victor there, the lineouts didn’t go as smooth without him there, he is a genius at the lineout which is the best attacking ball you can get,” James said.

“For me, he (Matfield) is a shoo-in, his presence in the change-room before a game is huge, I would agree with the coach and get those older guys in there.”

James believed the current Springbok side had more in terms of experience than the 2007 team, and he believed they had the ability to win the Webb Ellis Trophy in England.

“There is a lot of experience in the side at the moment, this team is probably more experienced and I think they can surprise a few teams,” James said.

“I think they are a team that can go all the way, we saw glimpses of that on Saturday and they just have to build on that and by the time the final comes they should be peaking and it is in their straps.”

With the two sides likely to face each other in a World Cup semi-final, James said Saturday’s clash between the sides at Ellis Park had even more riding on it than just the result.

“If things go according to plan, we play New Zealand in a semi-final, so knowing how to beat them eight weeks before is a huge advantage,” he said.

“It is an important match for the Springboks not just because of that mental edge but also building that momentum.”

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