Spencer’s exit adds to Canes woes

Carlos Spencer (left) will no longer be assisting Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland after deciding to pull the pin in the middle of Super Rugby Aotearoa. GETTY-IMAGES

OPINION: News of Carlos Spencer’s shock exit from the Hurricanes came out of nowhere.

Supporters had little inkling until the Hurricanes announced the ex-All Black first five-eighth, the man charged with adding fire to the team’s attack, had gapped it.

The official line this week was that Spencer, who joined the club ahead of the 2019 season, has been told his contract would not be renewed beyond 2020 due to financial issues created by Covid-19.

If the administrators thought Spencer would stick around for the remainder of Super Rugby Aotearoa they had read the wrong self-help book.

Spencer released a statement, saying he wasn’t up for that; he wanted to spend time with his family in Hamilton, where they have been based for around four years.

That was it. Whether he will feel inclined to watch the Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato, where they will be hosted by the Chiefs on Sunday, is unknown.

Maybe Spencer will be happy to watch it from the sofa.

1 Now what for the Hurricanes?

Well, the timing of Spencer’s departure isn’t ideal.

Not when the Hurricanes are searching for their first win in the SRA, and not when their next opponent is the Chiefs who are 0 and 3 and are probably still fuming about the controversial try awarded to Crusaders fullback Will Jordan in Christchurch last weekend.

But let’s throw the Hurricanes a bone; it’s not as though they aren’t used to upheaval.

Before this campaign began they lost star first-five Beauden Barrett to the Blues. Then coach John Plumtree accepted a job as the All Blacks forwards mentor. Assistant Jason Holland was promoted.

Remember when former coach Chris Boyd was replaced after the 2018 season? He made it clear he wanted to stay in Wellington. But the job had been promised to Plumtree. So Boyd was squeezed out.

Boyd, now in charge of English club Northampton, must be observing these latest developments with interest. That title win in 2016 seems a long time ago, right now.

2 Club rugby is back in vogue and it’s great.

Nice to see All Blacks’ back rower Ardie Savea having a run for his club, Oriental-Rongotai , in Wellington last weekend.

Savea enjoyed himself by all accounts. This was a win-win for everyone: Savea, his club and the sport. Kiwis love it when high-class athletes give back to the community.

This weekend ex-All Black Dan Carter, now a Blues man, is going to have a burst for his Southbridge club in Canterbury.

At a time when rugby, like many businesses in a post-Covid world, is struggling it’s gratifying to see men like Savea and Carter remember where they are from.

Let’s hope the NZ Rugby board members take note. They need to find ways to reconnect the game with the people. If that means encouraging more All Blacks to represent clubs, then so be it.

Hearing administrators and coaches say full-time professionals shouldn’t be let loose on weekend warriors is just a cop-out.

It can happen, if NZ Rugby has the right attitude. Savea has proved that.

3 NZ Rugby has got the selection criteria wrong for the resurrected North v South game.

Telling us this will be a genuine inter-island fixture is like gifting fans a free milkshake, and then flavouring it with a tablespoon of horse manure.

Quit the spin, and admit it’s an All Blacks trial.

4 In case you didn’t notice it, Christchurch still doesn’t have a decent stadium.

If you thought last weekend’s game between the Crusaders and Chiefs was ugly, thanks to the rain and cold, spare a thought for the 12,000 supporters in attendance.

You wouldn’t have blamed the older folk if they had packed a personal locator beacon, in case they got whacked by hypothermia.

Cantabrians will be stuck with the humble “temporary’’ stadium in Addington until at least 2023. The good news? Well, there isn’t any. The waiting continues.

5 Pick a winner?

Go for the Crusaders over the Highlanders, and the Chiefs to compound the Hurricanes’ misery. And if you’re in Dunedin, be thankful for the enclosed arena.

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