Lions Rugby today announced the signing of Springbok 2007 Rugby World Cup winner, fly-half Andrew “Butch” James. Currently playing for Bath in the English Aviva Premiership, Butch returns to South Africa in May this year, to play for the Lions for the next two seasons, after four seasons with Bath.
“When Guma/TAC decided to invest in the Lions, Ivor and I made a commitment to enhance our young team with Springbok quality players. The purchase and signing of Butch, who has represented South Africa 40 times as a Springbok, is perfectly in line with our vision.. Our aim is to create opportunities for South African players who play overseas to return home and play for a franchise that recognises their ability and professionalism and that can continue to earn on an international scale. This provides us as well as South African Rugby access to world class players,” said Chairman of the Golden Lions Board , Robert Gumede.
Gumede and fellow Lions shareholder Ivor Ichikowitz have been in discussions with Bath Rugby Club since October last year when they travelled to Europe to open discussions and have only praises for the owner and chairman, Bruce Craig and CEO Nick Blofeld of Bath Rugby Club.
“We’ve worked closely with the Bath Management who have hosted Robert and I at their new facility and thank them for their co-operation and professional manner in which they handled the negotiations which will ensure that Butch gets as much local game time as possible as we build towards the World Cup. We believe that Butch has what it takes to fit in well at the “Lions’ Den” and that he has immense value to add,” said Ichikowitz.
Butch, a member of the team that won the 2007 World Cup for South Africa, is excited about his return and is committed to being part of the new Lions’ vision going forward.
“I’m proud to be returning to South Africa and to be joining the Lions but at the same time sad to be leaving Bath after four successful seasons – The Lions vision excites me and I’m also very keen to be part of the Springboks for the World Cup again. Being able to contribute to the sport of rugby with a franchise that has this level of commitment to transformation and growth of the game is an opportunity I want to be involved in.
With the new energy injected in the Lions, new shareholders on board and a new sponsor in MTN, it is exciting times at the Lions, and I’m really honoured to be joining them,” said James. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bath Rugby for their support. I have enjoyed my time with them and take with me fond memories of the Club, the supporters and my team mates.
Coach John Mitchell is looking forward to Butch’s arrival: “Butch comes with a wealth of experience and has tremendous value to add to the Lions. I’m really looking forward to working with a player with Butch’s caliber and experience. I’ve always believed in developing youngsters as part of the expansion process and exposing them to experienced mentors such as Butch.,” said Mitchell.
Deputy President of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, Neville Jardine also had only praises for Butch:
“It is no secret that we’ve been speaking to Butch and we are both honoured and humbled to have a player of his caliber and vast experience joining the Lions. We are indeed awakening our pride, by signing players of this calibre. One can only feel pride, and have high hopes and expectations for the future,” said Jardine.
For further information visit www.lionsrugby.co.za