Up next... 100 caps

2008-08-08 14:45

London - No other rugby player in South Africa has created such divided opinion.

From mercurial moments to maddening inconsistency Percy Montgomery invited high praise and sneering scorn in his first incarnation as a Springbok rugby player.

The white boots, the blonde hair, the dazzling flashes of brilliance and the horrific lapses in judgement have all combined to make Monty one of the most loved and loathed figures in modern Bok rugby.

This year (and hopefully this month) Monty will become the first Springbok and only the ninth international rugby player ever to reach 100 Test caps.

At the moment he's sitting on 98 caps for the Boks and with Test matches against Argentina, New Zealand and Australia (two) to come in the next few weeks, the 100-mark seems a certainty for the man who's transformed the rugby public's perception of him from laughable to legendary.


Monty is born in Walvis Bay, Namibia on March 15. Angels rejoice as the flaxen-haired beauty is brought into the world, trumpets blare and Western Province supporters get a funny feeling in their tummy. Not really. But Mr and Mrs Monty are really stoked.


Monty catches a rugby ball for the first time on an expansive stretch of Walvis Bay beach. He runs through the milling tourists, side-steps three ice-cream vendors, puts the up-and-under into the clouds and leaps over umbrellas for the try. He knocks on at the vital moment with no one in front of him. Mr Monty shakes his head knowingly, muttering under this breathe, "this could be an interesting career."


The 'Handsome One' makes his debut for SA Schools before going on to become a member of the highly-rated Western Province Under-21 side in the mid-1990s. The side boasts the talents of Monty, Bob Skinstad, Corne Krige, Robbie Fleck and Selbourne Boome, all of who went on to represent WP (the majority of whom also win the Currie Cup in 1997), the Stormers and the Springboks.


Makes his Province debut in the Currie Cup and the Super 12 (its inaugural year). Province compete as Province in the Super 12 and finish second from bottom, ahead of the Crusaders (who would have thought), with three wins and a draw.


Western Province miss out on the Super 12, but Monty is called up for the Springbok's second Test against the British Lions to play at outside centre. The Boks score three tries to none in the must-win second Test, but can't convert any and lose the Test 18-15. The following year the Stormers make their Super 12 debut (in that awesome kaleidoscope of confusion kit that they paraded around Newlands in the bad old days).


By now Monty has entrenched himself as the rugby player South Africans outside of the Western Cape love to hate. He's appeared at one World Cup (1999) and tallies up his 50th cap for the Boks. In 2002 he makes the move from Western Province to Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales. Few tears are shed as the Boks' Accident Prone One skips the country. He won't appear again for the Boks until 2004. In his first year at Newport he gets a two-year ban from rugby (18 months suspended) for pushing over touch judge Peter Rees. The ban means he misses out on the 2003 Rugby World Cup.


Amidst howls of protest and snorts of derision from Bulls supporters Monty is recalled to the Bok set-up along with Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Os du Randt. Jake White's first year in charge brings a Tri-Nations trophy for only the second time since 1998. Monty, with his refined kicking technique, finishes the 2004 series as the top points score (and again in 2005), fully justifying his recall. During this period Monty was back in South Africa playing for the Sharks.


Monty makes his second visit to a Rugby World Cup, in the process he surpasses Joost van der Westhuizen's 89 Bok caps to become the most capped Bok ever. He also finishes the tournament as the event's top scorer with 105 points. At the time Jake White says, "What can you say about Monty? He is a class act and gives reassurance to those in front of him. I don't understand this criticism he receives. It was my call to ask him to return to South Africa, he said 'yes' and I have had no reason to regret either of those calls." After the World Cup he signs for French club Perpignan. In 2008 he signs a one-year deal with Western Province and the Stormers to represent the union and the franchise in the upcoming 2009 season.

Test rugby legends who've passed the 100-mark.

George Gregan, Australia: 139
Jason Leonard, England: 119 (114 for England, 5 for the British and Irish Lions)
Fabien Pelous, France: 118
Philippe Sella, France: 111
Gareth Thomas, Wales: 103 (100 for Wales, 3 for the British and Irish Lions)
Stephen Larkham, Australia: 102
David Campese, Australia: 101
Alessandro Troncon, Italy: 101

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