Monty nears magical mark

Percy Montgomery won’t talk about it. The approaching milestone of 100 caps for the Springboks has captivated the country, but for the man itself, it’s all about the number 96.

‘I was lucky enough to get my 95th cap against Wales,” smiles Montgomery. ”So now it’s all about 96. I’m not looking further than that, I don’t want to jinx it.”

The most capped Bok in the country came off the bench during last Saturday’s 43-17 victory over Wales, and slotted in seamlessly at outside centre, scoring a fine try. It was a testament to the player’s adaptability, and to his now indisputable pedigree.

”I actually enjoyed the run at 13. It was a different feeling sitting on the bench, but I’ll always do whatever the coach asks of me. My goal is to win back the number 15 jersey, but of course in Conrad Jantjes I have formidable opposition. He has been in outstanding form in the Vodacom Super 14 and he had a great game on Saturday.”

Since arriving back from Perpignan, Montgomery has added as much off the field as he has on it. He commands unrivalled respect throughout the Bok squad, and has embraced the new philosophy of Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

”It’s been a very exciting few weeks. Peter has a lot of ideas and I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far. The game plan we’re working on is designed to exploit the ELVs [experimental law variations], and that’s been a new challenge.

”I’m really looking forward to the ELVs. They’ll be introduced in the Vodacom Tri-Nations, so needless to say I’ve been working hard on my fitness. Watching a few of the games from the Super 14 has reinforced that it’s really not an old man’s game.”

Montgomery will return to France on Sunday, following the second Test against Wales at Loftus Versfeld to turn out for Pergignan in their Top 14 semifinal clash against Clermont or Toulouse.

Depending on the result, it could be his last outing for the French outfit. He has recently resigned to join Western Province, and will be available for their Absa Currie Cup campaign.

‘It’s a bit of a fairytale really, getting the chance to finish my career at the province where it all started. I’m really excited to be going back, and my family is as well. My son Nicholas in particular, because he’ll be starting at SACS, my alma mater.

”For now, though, it’s all about the Boks. I’m loving my rugby and just taking it game by game. It’s a cliché, but it’s worked for me so far.”

Montgomery has played 95 Tests for the Boks, scored 878 points, including 25 tries, 150 conversions, 145 penalties and six dropped goals. – Sapa

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