IF THE appointment of extravagantly gifted former New Zealand flyhalf Carlos Spencer to the EP Kings’ coaching staff is used as a yardstick, supporters can expect to be treated to champagne rugby in the months ahead.
Spencer is well known for his flamboyant, attacking play and ball-handling skills and he will look to pass on these attributes to the Kings’ back division.
Last year the Kings lacked punch on attack and they will need to show more thrust if they plan to make an impression in the Currie Cup this season.
Rising stars like Sergeal Petersen, Shane Gates and Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi will benefit greatly from the presence of Spencer.
Though the Kings were relegated from Super Rugby, a busy programme has been planned to keep fans entertained in what promises to be an absorbing season.
There will be early challenges when they play Super Rugby franchises the Cheetahs (January 25), the Lions (February 1) and the Stormers (February 7) at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
After the friendlies, the EP Kings will start their Vodacom Cup campaign before moving on to what promises to be an absorbing Currie Cup campaign.
EP officials are confident the Kings will be promoted into an enlarged Currie Cup Premier Division when SA Rugby holds a special meeting at the end of next month.
“Carlos will join the EP Kings to focus on the back line as well as skills training,” EP Rugby chief executive Charl Crous said.
Spencer first rose to prominence when he starred alongside Christian Cullen in a Ranfurly Shield challenge in 1991, playing for the Horowhenua team against Auckland. Auckland coach Graham Henry recruited him.
He played for the Blues Super 12 team from the inception of the competition in 1996 until 2005, and also played extensively for the Auckland NPC side. In 2005 he signed for English club Northampton Saints.
In 2010 Spencer signed for the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions to play for the team in the 2010 and 2011 Super Rugby seasons.
He subsequently took up a coaching role with the team before moving to the Durban-based Sharks for this year’s season.
Crous said as a player, Spencer was valued for his imaginative kicking and passing game, and his ability to unlock defences.
Kings’ president Cheeky Watson has promised fans that his union will sign six new players to strengthen the team in key areas.
“We are planning to sign players on long-term contracts and the signings will boggle minds,” Watson said.
The Kings have unveiled a mixture of youth and experience in their squad for next year .
While losing several senior members – including Hannes Franklin, Jaco Engels and Wayne Stephens – former coach Matt Sexton said he was happy with the squad they had contracted. “We did not go for many outside players [two are Jaco Grobler and BG Uys from the Leopards] because we have players transitioning from the under-21 team and the Academy to the squad,” Sexton, who is returning to New Zealand, said.
Players such as Luke Watson, Stephen Sykes, Darron Nell, Tiger Mangweni and Ronnie Cooke still provide experience.
The EP squad:
Timothy Agaba, Eben Barnard, Rynier Bernardo, Thembelani Bholi, Ofentse Boloko, Ronnie Cooke, Aidon Davis, Albe de Swardt, Charl du Plessis, Ntabeni Dukisa, Schalk Ferreira, Samora Fihlani, Shane Gates, Lizo Gqoboka, Siyanda Grey, Jaco Grobler, Andile Jho, Simon Kerrod, Michael Killian, Siyanda Mangaliso, Tiger Mangweni, Darron Nell, Lonwabo Ntleki, Brenden Olivier, Devin Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, Paul Schoeman, Brian Skosana, Kuhle Sonkosi, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Pieter Stemmet, Andries Strauss, Steven Sykes, Claude Tshidibi, BG Uys, Scott van Breda, Marlou van Niekerk, Kayle van Zyl, Luke Watson, George Whitehead, Stefan Willemse