Rugby: Carlos shown the door

Carlos Spencer. Photo / Getty Images
Carlos Spencer. Photo / Getty Images

Super Rugby's Lions franchise will decide this week whether to appoint new coaches or go with what they have following the axeing of all three of their New Zealand coaches, said to be costing the Lions about $7.2 million a year.

The suspension of head coach John Mitchell in June was followed by the sacking this week of backs coach Carlos Spencer and conditioning guru Wayne Taylor. Mitchell was suspended following a series of complaints from players and management. A hearing began last month, but is in recess and will continue next month.

Spencer and Taylor were released from their contracts via email, according to Taylor, following a poor Super Rugby campaign.

"I'm disappointed how the whole thing has been handled," said Taylor. The former New Zealand army officer was credited with much of the Lions' success last season when the team won the Currie Cup for the first time in 12 years, with many calling the team the fittest and strongest in the competition.

Less than a year on, however, Taylor is apparently copping much of the blame for the injury crisis that hit the team this season. At one stage during the Super Rugby competition, up to 12 frontline players were sidelined.

Forwards coach Johan Ackermann took charge of the team when Mitchell was suspended and will continue in the role until the Lions executive committee decide on the way forward at a meeting next week. It is believed they will continue with Ackermann in charge - but that could change, depending on the South African Rugby Union vote on Super Rugby participation next year.

That meeting was scheduled for early last month, but was postponed until this week. As things stand, the Lions - as the worst-performing South African team in this year's Super Rugby competition - will drop out of the series to make way for the Southern Kings.

One of the reasons given for the Lions getting rid of the trio of New Zealand coaches is that they were expensive, apparently costing the union about R400,000 ($60,000 a month) in salaries.

"This is not a great situation for anyone ... and I just hope it's not going to affect the players too badly," said Ackermann.

One player who seems to have been hit hard by the goings-on in the last few months is Joshua Strauss, who's been relieved of the captaincy of the team, in spite of being a Lions mainstay. This means the Lions will probably have their fourth captain leading them in just over a year when they get their Currie Cup defence underway next weekend.

Meanwhile, if doors are closing for New Zealanders in South Africa, they are opening for a former Chiefs and Highlanders back, James Wilson, who has been signed by Northampton for the 2012/13 season. Wilson, who has been playing for Bourgoin in France, will add size, pace and power to the Saints backline as the team prepares for another challenging campaign in the Aviva Premiership, the Heineken Cup and LV Cup.

- Agencies

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