Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: Percy's left boot win seals the deal
AS part of The Glory of '95 series, three of IOL Sport's rugby writers decided to pick their ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV. Today we look at the fullback position.
Candidates: Andre Joubert (1995), Percy Montgomery (2007), Willie le Roux (2019)
JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN
Each man, all vastly different from the other, brought his own unique strengths to the Bok side. Joubert had a big left boot, he was sound under the high-ball and he ran powerfully, and with pace, at the opposition, Montgomery’s experience and sound goal-kicking was invaluable, while Le Roux controlled the back-three in defence and helped guide his young guns.
All three men played big parts in the World Cup winning teams, but for me, Joubert stands out as the best of the trio.
Holder of several Bok records, Monrtgomery was a steady operator over his career and there were times when he kicked like a dream, but he was never the attacking force he could have been and also had his defensive frailties. Le Roux, sadly, was told to fit into a certain style after leaving the Cheetahs and he never reached his full potential. He could have been a devastating attacker if given the freedom to play, but he did enough to be the Boks’ best 15 in Japan.
Joubert had it all. He kicked superbly out of hand, was strong and solid under the high-ball and he was a powerful runner, who asked many questions with the ball in hand.
The fact he played in the latter games at the 1995 World Cup with a broken hand tells you everything you need to know about Joubert - he was a warrior that every team loved having in the side. He wasn’t called the “Rolls Royce” for nothing - a superb all-round rugby player.
Jacques' choice: Andre Joubert
Yes, I know many of you may opt for the ‘Rolls Royce’, Andre Joubert – or even 2019 champion Willie le Roux at fullback.
But Montgomery was a sensation as an attacker in the early part of his career, and then became the wise old master with the boot towards the end of it.
The blonde surfer dude was a major part of Nick Mallett’s 1999 World Cup team at fullback, having initially started out at outside centre in 1997 under Carel du Plessis. Montgomery possessed searing pace and had the ability to cut the defence to shreds in a more deliberate manner than the silky Joubert.
He also had a massive left-footed kicking boot, and would rifle torpedoes 60 or 70 metres downfield and into touch – although he was a bit of a shaky goal-kicker initially.
Mallett opted for the ‘Jannie de Beer Kicking Show’ in the 1999 quarter- and semi-finals, but Montgomery made one sprightly run down the left that set up Joost van der Westhuyzen’s try in the first half against England.
The Western Province star also slotted two excellent drop goals in the 1999 third-place playoff that South Africa won 22-18 against the All Blacks.
He had to miss out on the 2003 edition, though, due to an 18-month ban for pushing a touch judge while playing for Welsh club Newport.
But he was back for the triumphant 2007 World Cup in France, and Montgomery made up for all those missed goal-kicks from the past on the biggest stage.
Despite having lost a yard of pace, he slotted penalty after penalty, and conversions in-between, to become the leading points-scorer at the event as John Smit led the Boks to their second title.
Montgomery was the top Bok points-scorer at World Cups with 111 in 12 matches, until Handre Pollard went past him in Japan last year with 162 in 13 games.
Ashfak's choice: Percy Montgomery
This choice ultimately comes down to two of South Africa’s best ever players — never mind simply fullbacks — in Andre Joubert and Percy Montgomery, with apologies to Willie le Roux.
Montgomery wore the No 15 jersey in the 1999 and 2007 campaigns with distinction, and Joubert was imperious in ’95, while in 2003 it was Jaco van der Westhuyzen who clumsily occupied the last line of defence; and in 2011 it was another flyhalf playing out of position at fullback in Patrick Lambie.
Le Roux had reasonable World Cups in 2015 and 2019, but let’s be honest, he didn’t set those tournaments on fire.
And to be fair to Lambie, in 2011, the Boks’ campaign was over before it had hardly started when referee Bryce Lawrence ruined the quarter-final between the Boks and the Wallabies, so he is hardly a contender.
Joubert, nicknamed the Rolls-Royce of fullbacks after that great Springbok triumph of ‘95, was wonderfully reliable in that triumphant tournament for South Africa; and let’s not forget his fortitude in overcoming a broken hand sustained in the quarter-final against Samoa to go on and see out the semi-final and final.
Monty would have played in three World Cups had there been different rules in 2003 — he was at Newport in Wales and did not qualify for Springbok selection — and for overall contribution to the Boks in World Cup he shades my vote over my sentimental choice, Joubert.
And let’s remember, in the white-hot heat of that 2007 final in Paris, Monty struck home four perfect penalties.
“Jouba” was indeed a classy player, but in ’95 he was already 31years of age and thus had missed out on World Cups when he could have set the world on fire.
I just think that Percy’s poise and goal-kicking reliability in 2007 should get him the nod.
Mike's choice: Percy Montgomery.
Percy Montgomery is the first name on our Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV team sheet.