x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai Sevens: South African veteran Percy Montgomery plans Noble effort

The former Springboks star will look to use the experience of his 102 international caps to help Christina Noble retain their number one ranking this weekend.

Percy Montgomery will be in the Christina Noble at this weekend's Sevens
Percy Montgomery will be in the Christina Noble at this weekend's Sevens

DUBAI // There are a few age-old truisms about the annual Dubai Rugby Sevens. New Zealand will be wearing black, for starters.

By 7pm on Friday, the guards policing the gangways at the front of the DHL stand will be questioning quite why they ever thought a career in security would be a good idea.

The free public bus back to the city is always guaranteed to be lively, too.

And, above all the other certainties lies the fact that all Christina Noble's all-star 10s side have to do is turn up and they are guaranteed to win the International Veterans tournament.

It has always been so. They have won it six years on the bounce, with a player pool that has included World Cup winners such as Will Greenwood and Tim Horan, as well as a host of British & Irish Lions besides.

But, whisper it: they have some competition this year. Which is a little bit like saying the sacred All Black shirt will be carrying a sponsor's logo. It cannot really be true, can it?

With more contacts than the Yellow Pages, Christina Noble have always had their pick of rugby's most outstanding retirees.

They have done it again this time, summoning Percy Montgomery - with all his 102 South Africa caps and 893 Test points' worth of experience - to bolster their ranks this weekend.

And well they could do with him. With Joining Jack - a team of rugby league greats who are mostly recently retired - entering the competition this weekend, Christina Noble's No 1 ranking is under threat.

"I don't know if I'm doing the right thing by playing again," Montgomery said of the threat posed by the prospect of playing against Joining Jack's Jason Robinson et al.

"If there are some good teams it is good to be competitive. That is what the spectators want. They want to see some good tries and a competitive game."

At least Montgomery has some recent form to call on. He was part of an invitational team who won the Bermuda 10s two weeks ago.

Retirement is obviously treating the former Springbok well. Between Bermuda and here he took a holiday in New York - after opting for the Big Apple instead of Las Vegas.

"It is nice to keep it fun if you can," he said of his post-professional playing career. "Having played so many international games you are used to turning it on and turning off.

"For me, being there is more about being able to promote the charity [the foundation aids underprivileged children in south-east Asia] and promote the game. But when the whistle blows, it is competitive."

Christina Noble's squad for this weekend have more than 300 international caps between them, so should be able to cope with the pressure of defending their title.

"I can't wait to get started because the tournament is one of the best on the calendar," said Jim Jenner, the longest serving member of Christina Noble's vets side.

"There is always stiff opposition, the standard of the tournament gets better and better every year. It should be a thrilling game if we come up against [Joining Jack]."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and Paul Radley @paulradley