Ambitious National League Two South side Clifton have made an eye-catching swoop for former All-Black Bruce Reihana, writes Gareth Davies.
The 44-year-old, who won three caps for New Zealand before enjoying a hugely successful European club rugby career, will become the attack and backs coach at Station Road.
Reihana, who until recently held a similar role with Premiership giants Bristol Bears, cut his coaching teeth at French outfit Bordeaux after finishing his career across the Channel. Before that, Reihana plied his trade at Franklin’s Gardens with Northampton and captained the side after replacing England World Cup winner Steve Thompson as Saints’ leader.
Reihana’s move to Clifton, who are based at Cribbs Causeway, has been welcomed by their head coach Matt Salter. A former dual code professional who appeared in the 1999 rugby league Challenge Cup final for London Broncos, Salter feels that Reihana will also bring new vigour to the Lavender and Blacks.
“Bruce wants to promote an exciting brand of rugby and looks to focus on the boy’s skills and development,” enthused Salter. “With his influence, we are really looking forward to seeing him bring that energy and innovation in his coaching to our young squad next season”
Along with Reihana, Clifton have also retained the vast majority of their squad that finished the 2019-20 campaign early due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whenever the new season begins, Clifton will be led by Mitch Spencer after the long-serving fans’ favourite was appointed club captain for next term.
Spencer came to the club from Hartpury in 2014 and quickly made an impression with fellow players and supporters through his often-decisive match turning interventions. From a strong Bristol rugby family, who support him at home and away fixtures, he has forged a reputation for being a great role model for younger players and the mini and junior players.
His direction to the pack in front of him, with slick passing to unleash the powerful Clifton backs are also hallmark features of his play which has contributed to being handed the armband. Combined with his trademark chip and chase kicks and incisive breaks, this places him at the fulcrum of a team keen to build on last season’s hard fought fifth place at level four.
Clifton club president Roger Opie reflected on Spencer’s contributions last term and added: “His fond memories include a Christmas time try against local rivals Dings Crusaders, alongside well fought wins against top teams such as the Juddians and Henley. Above all, he smiles when looking back at local victories at Old Reds and Dings while praising many co-players which include Chris Levesley and Alex Giltrow.”
Spencer will replace three-quarter Sam Harrison as captain after the former steps down. He has unselfishly given much valuable energy and enthusiasm to the club with his engagement in several projects including the successful re-launch of match-day programmes.
“The club is making a statement of intent,” said club chairman Wyn Tingley bullishly. “Bruce and Mitch are typical of the spirit running through the club as we look ahead whenever we take to the pitch again.”
Tingley also hinted that the good news for Clifton supporters wasn’t quite over yet with further new additions to Salter’s squad set to be revealed in the coming weeks.
“New signings will be announced shortly that will enhance our strength and ambition,” he remarked. “It will further build this inclusive club at all levels as Clifton’s mission is simple: to deliver entertaining winning rugby and the best environment to play in.”