Former All Black Carlos Spencer has been handed the head coaching role at the Eastern Province Kings for South Africa's Currie Cup with an eye to getting them ready for a return to an expanded Super Rugby championship in 2016.
Spencer's latest coaching role was confirmed today.
He takes charge of a hot potato in the rugby republic's messy political landscape.
The Kings, operating in a historically strong area for coloured and black rugby, were controversially admitted to Super Rugby at the expense of Johannesburg powerhouse the Lions last year.
But they last just one season under the coaching of former Crusaders hooker Matt Sexton who quit recently for personal reasons.
The Kings, finishing at the bottom of the table and as the worst South African side, had to play a promotion relegation series with the Lions which they lost.
The Lions are now back in this year's competition and South African authorities have fast-tracked the Kings to the premier division of their national championship, the Currie Cup, as compensation.
But with Sanzar announcing overnight that the new Super Rugby system from 2016 is likely to include six South African sides and one from Argentina, the Kings look likely to be back in the international mix soon.
The pressure will be on Spencer to make them competitive for that return.
The former Blues and All Blacks star, renowned for his flamboyant approach, should suit the mindset of the team from Port Elizabeth, on the eastern seaboard.
Spencer has made a home in South Africa following a solid stint in English rugby.
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 alongside John Mitchell with the team before moving to the Durban-based Sharks for the 2013 season.
Now he has a job with plenty of responsibilities.
"There are obviously challenges ahead, in terms of the head coach role, but I'm excited about it and looking forward to it and I feel I have the right people here to help me as well," he said as his role was revealed at a press conference at the Nelson Bay Stadium today.
Spencer isn't expecting too much from this year's Currie Cup.
"This is a big step up for a lot of players. It's going to take a lot of work and I'm not expecting too much out of this first Currie Cup, I just want to see the team being competitive. If anything happens above that, it's a bonus."
"This is not a six month process, it will take time, but we are excited at having the opportunity and we just need to make the most of it."
Spencer described his coaching style as "very ambitious" but he was prepared to mix fun with hard work.
"In terms of where we are in terms of our fitness at the moment, we're way off the pace," he admitted.
"The next eight to 10 weeks that we have, we'll sit down and work with players on their fitness, their strength and explosive power."
He felt player recruitment would also be required though he wanted to assess his current squad first.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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