Butch made his bow on the international stage in South Africa’s 32-23 defeat to France in Johannesburg on June 16, 2001. He starred for the Springboks the following week on his home ground in Durban where he slotted five penalties to steer the Boks to a 20-15 win over Les Bleus.
However, he was suspended after the game for a late, dangerous hit on French wing David Bory. Such incidences would characterise James’ early career and earned him an unwanted reputation as an ill disciplined defender that was often exploited by referees.
He won six caps in total in 2001 before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament which sidelined him for six months. He recovered and played in three Tests on the Springboks' end-of-year tour of Europe in 2002 but suffered the same injury in his right knee in the final game of the 2004 Super 12 season.
The injury saw James miss the triumphant Tri-Nations campaign that year and he would only return to the national side in 2006. Upon his return, James seemed to establish himself as the first choice flyhalf but further knee problems once again halted his momentum.
In 2007, the fit again James enjoyed an injury free Super 14 campaign which saw him guide the Sharks to a home final and in doing so earned himself the Springbok No 10 jersey for the World Cup in France later that year.
Butch finally got the opportunity to play to his full potential on the biggest stage of all and he flourished like never before with a near faultless campaign. A composed James steered the Springboks to the top of Pool A with victories over Samoa, England – a record 36-0 thrashing – and USA.
He scored a try in the quarter-final match against Fiji and won his head-to-head battle with the competition’s other form flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez in the Boks’ 37-13 win over Argentina in the semi-finals.
James went on to play a pivotal role in the final against England and did a splendid job of nullifying the influence of his opposite number Jonny Wilkinson. South Africa’s 15-6 win was as much a personal victory of passion and perseverance for James as it was a reward for four years of detailed planning and execution of the entire Springbok camp.
Butch played in a further nine Tests the following year and made his exit from the international scene in the record 53-8 drubbing of Australia in the Tri-Nations clash in Johannesburg on August 30. He is the most capped flyhalf in Springbok history having made 32 appearances at No 10.
Records/Honours:Member of the World Cup winning Springbok squad, 2007Most capped flyhalf in Springbok history (32)