Lions sign World Cup winner Butch James - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lions sign World Cup winner Butch James

02/02/2011 02:15:36 AM Comments (0)

Fiery Springboks' flyhalf Butch James will return to South Africa to play for the Johannesburg-based Lions for the final part of the Super 15 rugby season.

The 32-year-old, 2007 World Cup winner, has been playing for English team Bath for the past four seasons and will join the Lions in May.

James wants to play for South Africa in this year's World Cup which starts in September in New Zealand.

"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," James said.

"The Lions vision excites me and I'm also very keen to be part of the Springboks for the World Cup again."

A former flyhalf with the Durban-based Sharks, James has played 40 tests for South Africa but fell out of favour after his move to Bath before being recalled to the Tri-Nations squad last year.

James was presented at a Johannesburg airport on Tuesday after arriving in a private jet belonging to new Lions shareholder Ivor Ichikowitz.

The billionaire South African businessmen Ichikowitz and IT mogul Robert Gumede last year bought a 49 percent stake in the Lions, formerly known as Transvaal and one of South Africa's strongest rugby provinces, and pledged to turn around the fortunes of the struggling team.

The Lions lost all 13 of its games in the 2010 Super 14 - the worst season ever by a Super Rugby team.

But the Lions revived their fortunes in South Africa's Currie Cup competition under former New Zealand coach John Mitchell, who joined after the Super 14.

The investment by Gumede and Ichikowitz has linked the team with a string of high-profile names, including James and fellow Springboks Tendai Mtawarira, BJ Botha and Francois Steyn.

Ichikowitz, who owns an arms and defence company, last year promised to transform the face of South African rugby with their investment in the Lions.

They said they would make the sport as popular with black fans as it is with white supporters, and will stage Lions games in Soweto following successful matches at the Johannesburg township for the Pretoria-based Bulls and South Africa's national team last year.

The Lions are still reportedly trying to sign South Africa props Botha and Mtawarira ahead of the new Super 15 season. The team begins the tournament against defending champions and local rivals the Bulls on February 19.

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