The recruitment of former All Black flyhalf Carlos Spencer could be a masterstroke by Sharks coach John Plumtree.
It was revealed last week that the ex-Lions assistant coach has linked up with the Durban side for this year’s Super Rugby tournament. “King” Carlos at Kings Park? It certainly sounds like a perfect match.
Spencer has been roped in to impart his unique pivotal prowess and share his in-depth knowledge of flyhalf play, primarily with Pat Lambie but also the Springbok prodigy’s provincial understudies.
Considering his astute mentorship of Elton Jantjies during his time at the Lions, the Spencer-Lambie partnership could be the catalyst for the Sharks to capture their maiden Super Rugby title this year.
Perhaps even more exciting is the possible impact the collaboration could have on Springbok rugby. Spencer’s tutelage could well lead to Lambie’s transformation from multitalented playmaker to polished pivot and finally put to bed the ongoing debate over where Lambie’s long-term future lies.
A full, injury free season at flyhalf with Spencer as mentor could elevate the 22-year-old from a good flyhalf to a great flyhalf.
Granted, Spencer as a player lacked the tactical and goal-kicking nous of a Jonny Wilkinson and a Dan Carter, but the four seasons he spent with Northampton Saints significantly improved his ability and understanding of tactical flyhalf play.
Propelling the struggling side back into the Premiership and being acknowledged as the Saints Player of the Year in 2005-06 is a testament to his tactical progression during his 102-match spell in Europe, and his experience of wet, slippery northern hemisphere fields as well as fast, dry southern hemisphere pitches will further benefit Lambie.
However, it’s the prospect of Lambie being equipped with Spencer’s trademark flair, inventiveness and vision with ball in hand that will most concern opposition coaches.
While Lambie will be Spencer’s pet project, the Sharks backline as a whole – already a handful for the most resolute of defences – will also bear fruit from the New Zealander’s presence.
There’s no-one an attack-orientated coach would rather have to bolster his backline’s bag of tricks than one of the greatest attacking flyhalves the game has ever seen.
Deft handling, intelligent running lines, cross-kicking and counter-attacking, Spencer has it down pat. The 35-Test All Black was equally adept at fullback and will also be sure to play a positive role in the careers of Louis Ludik and Riaan Viljoen.
If the pack can emulate their strong 2012 campaign, the potent Sharks backline – with Lambie pulling the strings – could be untameable this year.
By Quintin van Jaarsveld
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