Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Southbridge set for Carter's comeback

Dan Carter. Photo /  Christine Cornege
Dan Carter. Photo / Christine Cornege

The parking is being finalised, likewise security and crowd control. But as the Southbridge Rugby Club prepares for Dan Carter's playing return, one of the most significant presentations has already been made.

On Monday night, in front of about 130 supporters at the clubrooms 50km south of Christchurch which helped shape the 32-year-old into one of the best rugby players in the world, All Black Carter was handed his Southbridge playing strip.

"It was a private do," Southbridge club manager Chris McMillan said. "There were only locals there -- there was no media or anything so he could relax a bit and be himself."

On Saturday, on Southbridge 1, Carter will at 2.45pm make his senior home debut for the club in the Luisetti Seeds Division One playoff match against Glenmark, their rivals from North Canterbury and the former club of Robbie Deans, among others.

McMillan, who was involved in organising Carter's only previous senior game for the club, his comeback from an Achilles injury against Hornby at Denton Oval in 2009, expects a large crowd. Several thousand turned up to see Carter in that match, his first in New Zealand since his sabbatical at Perpignan.

For the club, this is a massive event, and McMillan expects a lot of interest, although how many would turn up in what may be wet conditions, he couldn't say.

It is also a big day for Carter. He stayed for more than an hour on Monday night, enjoying the club's hospitality and a question-and-answer session that was capped off by the presentation of his playing strip -- a blue-and-white-hooped jersey and black shorts -- a formality usually reserved for the game's top level.

The match is a step in Carter's return from the injury suffered at Twickenham last year, a sad end to his 100th test. All going well, he will be available for the Crusaders in their run-in, and then the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship starting in August.

"We can't wait," McMillan said. "It's been a dream of his to play a game at home and it's been the club's as well. We've got to make the most of the opportunity because we never know when it will happen again. It's been a long time between drinks."


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