Springboks dump Monty

2008-07-17 00:00

VETERAN Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery has been dumped and coach Peter de Villiers has plumped for pace in making four changes to his team for tomorrow’s Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies in Perth.

The 34-year-old Montgomery, who has 98 Test caps, has been replaced at fullback by Conrad Jantjes. Montgomery has also failed to make the bench as De Villiers opted for five forwards and only two backs in the reserves when he named his squad in Perth yesterday.

Monty, with a 100th Test cap tantalisingly close, is apparently now being “phased out” of Springbok rugby, although he has been written off before and bounced back.

One of the most accurate goal-kickers in world rugby, he was a key figure in the Springboks’ World Cup victory in France last October.

He started solidly against the All Blacks at the House of Pain last Saturday and kicked three early penalties. Later, he missed two goalable attempts and was replaced by Jantjes at fullback, with first Butch James and then Frans Steyn taking over the kicking duties in the 30-28 win.

De Villiers had wanted to add the left boot of Montgomery to the Boks’ tactical game against the All Blacks, but the indications are that the South Africans will adopt a ball-in-hand approach against the Wallabies.

Genuine pace has been added to the pack with the mobile Schalk Britz replacing suspended hooker Bismarck du Plessis, while Pierre Spies, one of the most athletic forwards in world rugby, takes over from Joe van Niekerk at number eight. Spies, a former wing, is a dangerous, exciting attacker, but he does have a tendency to go to ground in contact rather than keeping the ball alive.

In the fourth change, forced on De Villiers by injury, the talented but unpredictable Francois Steyn takes over from Adrian Jacobs at centre. The 100-kg Steyn will physically bolster the Bok midfield, but the sniping Jacobs, who creates space for those around him, will be missed.

De Villiers has also shown his hand by selecting another runner, Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski, on the bench in place of Luke Watson who was preferred for the heavy going in New Zealand.

Of course, the attacking talents of Jantjes, Steyn, Brits, Spies and Kankowski will count for little if the Bok pack does not control the contest at forward. De Villiers, significantly, has named five forwards — and a full front row — on the bench, and he obviously hopes to keep the Wallaby pack under pressure from first to last.

Uncapped hooker Adriaan Strauss, who joined the squad in Perth only on Tuesday, is among the replacements, along with the two former Zimbawean props Tendai Mtawarira and Brian Mujati.

Bok captain Victor Matfield said yesterday he is happy with his two new hookers.

“We’ve had a good week with Schalk and his throwing is looking very good at the moment.

“Adriaan [Strauss] had a session this morning and he’s a great thrower, as we know from back home.”

De Villiers said he was always going to select Spies for the Perth Test, but admitted the omission of Montgomery had been tough.

Matfield believes that the Wallabies will miss former South African lock Dan Vickerman, their leading lineout jumper, who is injured.

“You will always miss a player of his class,” he said. “He has a lot of experience and is a great player at lineout time. I think they’ll miss Dan. He’s one of the top locks in the world.”

Flyhalf Peter Grant joins Ruan Pienaar as the only two backline replacements.

Springbok team:

15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Francois Steyn, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp

Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Peter Grant.

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