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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Monty's mission
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport

Percy Montgomery is the rarest of beasts, a Springbok who has migrated from South Africa to Wales and has grown and thrived in northern climes.

Percy Montgomery's move to Newport strangely helped him back into the South Africa side
I felt more relaxed in myself in Wales
Percy Montgomery
His move to Newport in 2001 was seen as a typical example of a southern hemisphere star seeking a fat and easy retirement cheque in Europe.

Then 27 years old, Montgomery had scored 261 points in 48 internationals, but decided to head for pastures new after being left out of the Springbok squad.

For all his achievements and undoubted talent, South Africa's golden boy was still regarded as flaky when the pressure came on, both in his goal kicking and general play.

Many wondered at Newport's wisdom in splashing Tony Brown's cash on such a player - how would he relish a trip to Eugene Cross Park on a dank January night, with half of northern Gwent ready to descend on him?

But in the last three years Montgomery has risen to the challenge admirably, not only displaying his skills but apparently ironing out the weaknesses in his game to such an extent that this year he forced his way into Jake White's Tri Nations-winning South Africa squad.

"I had been out in the cold with South Africa for a while, and being a part of Newport helped me get back," Montgomery told BBC Sport Wales.

"I just stuck to the basics and upped my game by rebuilding what I do best, while my kicking improved a hell of a lot.

"The support and team environment was great. There is always pressure, wherever you play your rugby, but I felt more relaxed in myself in Wales.

Percy Montgomery
Winning the Heineken Cup is definitely one of my goals
Percy Montgomery
"It was great to get the chance to represent my country again and to come back with a trophy is awesome.

"I was fortunate enough to be a part of South Africa's last Tri Nations win in 1998.

"To win it again was a great effort and the whole team can be proud."

Montgomery's star is riding so high that he was reluctant to take a month off after the Tri Nations triumph.

"I could have carried on playing, but I'm now refreshed and ready for the Dragons," he said.

"Demands on players are high and it's important they are handled properly by club and country, but ultimately it's about managing yourself."

Whilst Montgomery has brought pleasure to Welsh rugby fans in his time at Newport, he inflicted pain in the summer in kicking 18 points as the Springboks romped to a 53-18 win over Wales in Pretoria.

He will hope to repeat the dose on 6 November when he is expected to face Wales in Cardiff as South Africa begin their quest for a Grand Slam tour of Europe, but he believes the challenge will be stronger.

"Wales will want revenge and will be on their home ground, the great Millennium Stadium, so it could be a different story," he said.

"It will be a big challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

Montgomery is clearly relishing his return to the international fold, but it will not distract him from fixed targets with the Newport Gwent Dragons.

"Winning the Heineken Cup is definitely one of my goals and a goal of the team, whether that's this year or within the next three seasons," said Montgomery, who is expected to return for the Dragons in the home game with Leinster on 1 October.

"It does take time to build a team, but hopefully we can pull it off."





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SEE ALSO
SA 23-19 Australia
21 Aug 04  |  Internationals
Monty extends Dragons deal
28 Jul 04  |  Welsh
Boks recall Montgomery
16 May 04  |  Internationals
Montgomery escapes life ban
04 Jun 03  |  Welsh
Springboks swap caps for cash
29 May 02  |  International
Monty seeks European future
13 May 02  |  International
Springboks leave out Montgomery
31 Jul 01  |  Tri Nations


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