Boks fall back on old guard

2008-08-12 00:00

PERCY Montgomery will become the first South African to win 100 Test caps when he turns out against the All Blacks in Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test match at Newlands, his home ground in Cape Town.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has opted for experience in returning two World Cup heroes, the 34-year-old fullback Montgomery and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, to the starting line-up.

They take over from Conrad Jantjes and Ricky Januarie in two of five changes to the team which started against Argentina at Ellis Park last Saturday.

Wing Bryan Habana, in place of Jongi Nokwe, and flank Schalk Burger, who takes over from Luke Watson, are back from injury while Andries Bekker will start at lock in place of Bakkies Botha.

It seems that De Villiers has performed an about-turn in selection, after Jantjes and Januarie had started the week running with the shadow Bok team at training.

Jantjes had an excellent Test against the Pumas, and was impressively brave under the high ball, but Montgomery’s big match temperament and his left boot were obvious factors in his selection.

“I don’t think it could happen to a greater rugby player,” De Villiers said yesterday.

“The professional player that he is now and the experience he brings to the side is extraordinary. Even when he’s not playing, he’s the same player and the same character. This week is going to be huge for him, but Percy knows that the job is more important than the milestone.”

Montgomery attempted to play down the importance of the occasion.

“I try not to talk too much about it. We’ve got three big weeks, starting with the big one this weekend,” he said.

The tenacious Januarie had an excellent Tri-Nations tour, but Du Preez, back in partnership with Butch James, provides a smoother service and is an accurate tactical kicker.

“I think Ricky’s legs are getting heavier after a long Super 14 season and it’s the right time to make the change,” De Villiers said yesterday.

Fears that flank Juan Smith, one of the most consistent performers in world rugby, would miss the Test to be with his wife for the birth of their child proved unfounded and he will join Burger and Pierre Spies in the back row and play in his 50th Test.

Watson replacing Joe van Niekerk on the bench is an acknowledgement of the fetching ability of All Black captain Richie McCaw who is back in the side after missing the first two Tests between the sides in New Zealand because of injury.

The Boks will miss the confrontational Botha at lock, but the presence of the towering, 2,08-metre Bekker at the front, Victor Matfield in the middle and Smith, Spies and Burger at the tail will place the All Black jumpers under pressure.

Sharks utility back Francois Steyn and Bulls forward Danie Rossouw join the Bok bench in place of the injured Jaque Fourie and Bekker.

Springbok team:

Percy Montgomery, JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield (capt.), Andries Bekker, CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Brian Mujati, Danie Rossouw, Luke Watson, Enrico Januarie, Francois Steyn, Conrad Jantjes.

Kick-off: 3 pm.

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