Former Springbok Percy Montgomery was among the first to applaud fellow SACS old boy Chris Smith for slotting the winning drop goal which put the Vodacom Bulls into the Vodacom United Rugby Championship semi-finals.
SACS, situated in the plush southern suburbs of Newlands in the Western Cape, is the oldest school in South Africa, an institution that produced the most Springboks pre the second world war and also for 12 years was the home of the Springboks’ first centurion, Percy Montgomery.
And it was Montgomery, who immediately took to social media to applaud the match-winning drop-kicking heroics of Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith in the URC quarter-final against the Cell C Sharks.
“That’s my SACS boytjie …” raved 2007 World Cup-winner Montgomery, who remains the highest points-scorer in Springbok rugby history.
There is a strong brotherhood among the SACS rugby old boys and when one succeeds, to quote Montgomery, the school succeeds.
That Smith was doing his victory dance in the colours of the Bulls did not matter.
“It is fantastic to see how Chris has matured in the course of the league,’ said Montgomery. “He had to leave the Cape to get an opportunity and he is prospering. Jake [White] has also backed him and he certainly rewarded Jake’s trust in him. Many coaches would have put on Morne Steyn with the game so tight and with time running out.
“I played under Jake for four years with the Springboks and it does give a player a massive boost when you know the coach believes you can get the business done. Jake is in a strong position because of this. He has the best goal-kicking insurance policy in Morne for the semi-final and he has an in-form Chris Smith, who will be high on confidence.”
The Bulls travel to Dublin to take on Leinster in the semi-finals on Friday evening, but it may have been a very different story for the men from Pretoria were it not for the boot of Smith, who won the game with the last kick of the match in injury time.
It was a clutch moment from Smith, but it was not one that surprised White, who has come to expect such consistency and big pressure plays from his No 10.
Smith is an exception to the common theme of a young player who immediately gets thrust into the senior set-up. His story is one of patience and apprenticeship, but what the past two years have shown is that the apprenticeship is over.
SACS was the school where it started for Smith, before doing the yards for many years at Maties (Stellenbosch University), going on to play for the Pumas and then being ushered into the Bulls system to learn from veteran Steyn.
Smith has thrived in an environment where he has been allowed to learn and also teach.
“Morne will tell you that he has learned a lot from Chris in certain aspects of his play, while naturally there is no one more equipped than Morne when it comes to mentoring the pressure aspects of goal-kicking,” said White.
Smith’s road to the top may have been a long one, but the destination is still proving to be a special place. Over the past two years he has won two Currie Cups and the Super Rugby Unlocked tournament, and regardless of how far the Bulls progress past this point, he has taken over at flyhalf from a Springbok icon, and marshalled his side into the knockout stages of the URC in its historic inaugural season.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 8, 2022
Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix