RWC # 19: Carlos Spencer does the ‘Carlos Spencer’

Mercurial All Black produces stunning piece of skill against Boks in 2003 quarter-final

Carlos Spencer congratulates Joe Rokocoko after his try during New Zealand’s 29-9 Rugby World Cup quarter-final win over South Africa in 2003. Photograph: Getty

Carlos Spencer congratulates Joe Rokocoko after his try during New Zealand’s 29-9 Rugby World Cup quarter-final win over South Africa in 2003. Photograph: Getty

 

Thanks to Johann Cruyff, the practice of pulling a football back behind your standing leg and spinning 180 degrees will forever be known as the Cruyff turn.

Because of Devon Loch, any time a sportsperson or team manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory it is known as a, well, Devon Loch.

And ever since the 2003 World Cup quarter-final between New Zealand and South Africa, the act of flinging a rugby ball blindly between your legs to a team mate who may or may not be waiting has been known as a Carlos Spencer.

Carlos Spencer struggled to hold down a regular starting berth for the All Blacks, often shunned in favour of Andrew Merthens, but he possessed a rare mercurial brilliance and had a special knack for unlocking defences.

One of Spencer’s more outrageous moments came at the Telstra Dome, Melbourne, with the All Blacks in the ascendancy against South Africa.

The Springboks had a scrum on their own five metre line but dogged work from the New Zealand backrow saw the ball presented for Justin Marshall.

Marshall looked to the shortside and to Spencer, who had Ashwin Willemse bearing down on him and green shirts steaming across to try and cover.

Spencer caught the ball from Marshall and in one fluid motion bent and popped it between his legs for Joe Rokocoko, who suddenly had the space to ghost over the line for the game’s final try.

The ability to engineer space out of nowhere, coupled with the sheer audacity of the pass, meant the Carlos Spencer would become a staple in schoolyard rugby games for a generation.

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