Butch: I lost respect for Samoa

2011-11-14 15:58
Butch James (File)
Cape Town - There was healthy respect for Wales. They had beaten England and Argentina in World Cup warm-up matches and they were a settled combination.

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They were a young side that had come close to beating us in Cardiff in 2010. We were taking nothing for granted.

I knew I would not be starting against Wales. Morné Steyn had started against the All Blacks and kicked 18 points. There was an emphasis on the need for a goal-kicker of his quality and it bugged me that there was doubt I could deliver as a goal-kicker.

I had kicked two from three against Australia in Durban and the one that I missed probably cost me my starting place at flyhalf in the World Cup. We were leading 6-0 in that match and as I was about to kick the wind blew over the ball.

Everything went wrong with the kick after that. It was rushed and it wasn’t ideal that the ball had to be kept on the tee by the finger of a player because of the wind. I am not excusing the miss, but trying to put it into context.

Wellington, as a city, is notorious for strong winds and the Westpac Stadium is one of the more difficult for goalkickers. We beat Wales 17-16 after trailing 10-16 with 20 minutes to go. I played the last hour as a centre replacement for Jean de Villiers, but could never do as good a job. He is world class and one of the best international No 12s.

I have never been keen on playing No 12. As with any Bok you play where the coach wants you, but my position has always been No 10. I feel comfortable there and in control. I never doubt myself as a flyhalf but I am not confident at centre, and I never have been.

It was great to be part of the win, but we didn’t know that night that beating Wales would mean us playing Australia in the quarter-finals. With no disrespect to Ireland, who have beaten the Boks a couple of times in the past decade, we expected Australia to beat Ireland, which would mean we played Ireland in the quarter-finals. We obviously had to win all our matches to finish first but we never doubted our capacity to do so.

I was gutted not to play Samoa. I really thought my style of play at No 10 and the physical nature of my game was ideal to negate the Samoans, but it didn’t help that there was doubt over my groin.

The coaches went with a five forwards and two backs bench split and I couldn’t realistically expect to be on the bench. I don’t offer that kind of versatility. My wife Julia arrived before the game, which made up for the disappointment of not playing, but the truth is that it isn’t the greatest feeling being at a World Cup and not being involved in the match 22. You have to work hard to make sure you remain positive but it is easier said than done.

I knew it would be tough and that there wasn’t going to be a lot in the result. We all did. We also knew how physical the game would be but I don’t think any of us expected so much off-the-ball play. The last 20 minutes was frantic.

They threw everything at us. It was hard but it also got quite dirty. Welsh referee Nigel Owens lost a bit of control in that period and there was plenty going on off the ball.

Our discipline was outstanding and Smitty’s yellow card for a professional foul was ridiculous. I don’t think Smitty could believe he nearly got the intercept, let alone have a premeditated plan to knock down the pass.

I felt very frustrated watching the game and I wasn’t impressed with the way the Samoans conducted themselves on the field, and even more so off the field.

A lot was being said after the match that Owens favoured us. I thought he made some poor calls against Samoa but I felt we got the worst of the calls. As I have already said, I think he lost control of the game in that last quarter. I have always had respect for how the Samoans play the game and especially for how they interact after the contest. All the bitching and bad blood after this one meant I lost a lot of respect for those particular Samoan players.

Extracted from "BUTCH", published by Highbury Safika Media.


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