Johannesburg - Having promised so much as the Lions big name signing, former All Black Carlos Spencer is one of the biggest disappointments for coach Dick Muir in this year’s Super 14.
While it would be unfair to blame the Lions woes on one player – the problems dig way deeper than that – it would be fair to say that Spencer has been largely anonymous since joining the Johannesburg franchise and has hardly lived up to his tag of “King Carlos”.
Twice now he has been substituted at half-time, a clear signal that coach Dick Muir is slowly losing his patience with the Kiwi player.
Spencer celebrated his 100th Super 14 game in the 73-12 drubbing at the hands of the Waratahs on Friday, and where his team-mates were looking for inspiration, they found none.
In the Waratahs game Spencer made one tackle in 40 minutes, carried the ball just twice and kicked one ball into the hands of Dean Mumm for a 40 metre try against the run of play. While his side were under pressure, Spencer’s kicking stats were also poor, kicking just twice for a nett gain of 43 metres.
It is understandable why Muir hasn’t gone to Burton Francis just yet. In the Brumbies game, the young flyhalf made nine unforced errors as his team went down 24-13 but has still not found the confidence to play at this level.
Add to that, with the talk being the Lions “broke the bank” to secure Spencer for the Super 14, it is understandable that Muir won’t want to discard his only big name player just yet.
However, Spencer needs to take a much more leading role in proceedings, with the Lions looking to their flyhalf to at times dictate their attack and defence.
Earlier this season Muir said after he substituted Spencer against the Stormers that the two “weren’t on the same page” and there needed to be a chat for Spencer to clearly understand what his role in the team currently is.
Now as the season reaches its halfway point and the Lions look even more like a team in unending crisis, Muir will need his kingpin to reach deep and find the magic that made him one of the best flyhalves of the last two decades.
If he cannot, then Muir needs to place his faith in Francis, whose future form could well dictate the path the Lions will be on over the next few years.