Monty’s boot saves Boks

Nine penalties from Percy Montgomery gave the Boks an unconvincing 30-27 victory over the World XV at Ellis Park on Saturday. The home side led 15-11 at half-time.

Pity those fans who forked out R300 to watch this drivel. In fact, pity anyone who managed to stomach the full 80 minutes.

Apart from Joe van Niekerk, who made three memorable linebreaks and offloads in the first half, the Boks lacked direction and inspiration.

Without John Smit, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger, the soft under-belly of the Bok pack was brutally exposed. Deon Carstens was totally outscrummed by Cobus Visagie, who must surely now be a candidate for the World Cup squad, while the World XV loose forwards managed to slow down Bok ball at the breakdown.

Fortunately, South Africa’s line-out was as reliable as ever with Hanyani Shimange delivering one of his best performances. AJ Venter was the main ball winner up front, and it was only in the second half that the World XV claimed one against the throw.

Jaco van der Westhuzyen, who started his first match at flyhalf for the Boks since the Mandela Test in Sydney last year, generally failed to get the backline going. In the first two minutes of the match he had a pass intercepted and then put a kick directly into touch. He will have to seriously up his game in order to prevent the injured Andre Pretorius from reclaiming his No 10 jersey this season.

The World XV, meanwhile, were outstanding considering they spent as much time in the pub as on the training field this week. That they came so close to pulling off an upset victory was mainly down to scrumhalf Justin Marshall – who was driven over for his side’s first try early in the match – flyhalf Carlos Spencer – whose brilliant cross kick set up Isa Nacewa’s try soon after half-time – and Matt Burke, who kicked five penalties and a conversion.

In the end, a match that promised so much in terms of running rugby delivered very little.

Montgomery and Burke exchanged early penalties, before Marshall was driven over for the World XV’s first try and an 8-3 lead. Only a fourth penalty from Montgomery and a massive 55m strike from Gaffie du Toit after the siren, gave the home side a four-point lead at the break.

The Boks were expected to come out firing in the second half, but were disrupted when Venter was sent to the sin bin. A minute later, Spencer put in a cross kick for Nacewa, Montgomery inexblicably never left the ground, and the World XV right wing scored under the posts.

A string of penalties from Montgomery and Burke saw the scores locked at 27-all with four minutes remaining. However, the whistle-happy Henning awarded the Boks a dubious penalty in front of the posts, allowing Montgomery to kick his ninth penalty and save Bok blushes.

Springbok XV - Penalties: Percy Montgomery (9), Gaffie du Toit.
World XV – Tries: Justin Marshall, Isa Nacewa. Conversions: Matt Burke (1). Penalties: Burke (5)

By Simon Borchardt, at Ellis Park