Jason Spice belongs to an exclusive group of New Zealand rugby players who have pulled on an All Black jersey but never made it onto the field of play.
This he did against Argentina in Buenos Aires in 2001, called into the touring side because of injury but not needed from the bench.
It’s a decent trivia question but doesn’t do justice to a remarkable sporting career, which saw him play nearly 300 first-class rugby matches, as well as a handful of first-class cricket matches.
The youngest in a sports-mad family , Jason made the Matamata College First XV in 1990 while still in fifth form, the same year he made the First XI cricket team. He featured prominently in a number of other sports, especially athletics, but rugby and cricket commitments kept him extremely busy.
A classy halfback and first-five in rugby, he made Waikato representative teams all through his schooling career, while his left-arm spin and middle-order batting was a feature in Northern Districts age-group teams. Highlights from his school career include a majestic 142 for the College in a touring match agains Brisbane Grammar.
Although he continued to play rugby after school, it was cricket that held his immediate interest, breaking into the New Zealand Youth team and making his full Northern Districts debut in 1993.
His brilliant figures of 7-42 in a ‘test’ against Pakistan still stands as the best figures for a New Zealand Youth player.
It took the arrival of New Zealand’s greatest-ever spinner to stymie his cricketing career, however. Daniel Vettori’s emergence for Northern Districts, and subsequently for the Black Caps, encouraged Jason to refocus on his rugby – to immediate effect.
He made his Waikato debut in 1995, while playing for the Waikato University club, and played 19 matches for the province before being called into the Blues for his Super Rugby debut in 1998.
He then transferred to Wellington, where he where he played 61 games for the province, including captaining them during the 2003 season, and 66 matches for the Hurricanes. Jason was a New Zealand A tourist to Europe in 2000, had his Argentinian adventure in 2001 and was again on standby for the 2002 end of season All Black tour.
After leaving the Hurricanes in 2004, he enjoyed three seasons and 77 games for Ospreys in Wales, 48 games for Cardiff and a staggering 31 games in one season with Bristol. He returned to New Zealand in 2011 after 17 seasons of professional rugby.
Jason is now a teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College and is successfully transferring his playing talents into the coaching realm with that school’s First XV.