Every offseason Jordie Barrett turns to his second sporting love, swapping boots for bat and ball to rekindle his cricketing passion.
Before he became the prodigiously talented All Blacks and Hurricanes outside back, Barrett hit the crease as a brisk new-ball bowler and handy lower order batsman. He captained Central Districts under-19s, played alongside Black Caps Will Young and Tom Bruce in Taranaki's Hawke Cup side and was on standby for the New Zealand under-19 World Cup team.
"I was still playing cricket two years out of school – just before I made NZ under-20s," Barrett recalls from his family's Taranaki farm.
Given that pedigree, and the many backyard battles he shared with his elder brothers, it's no surprise Barrett has been a standout in the Team Rugby versus Team Cricket Black Clash which holds its third, deciding edition at Christchurch's Hagley Oval on Friday evening.
Barrett took 2-53 and hit 42 not out to propel Team Rugby to their five wicket upset win in the maiden Black Clash two years ago in Christchurch.
Last year in Napier, Barrett's yorker stunned Stephen Fleming during an impressive four over spell that also claimed Black Caps batting coach Luke Ronchi to finish with 2-22, but it wasn't enough to stop Team Cricket squaring the ledger with a two run win that went down to the final ball.
Despite enjoying his break, before rejoining the Hurricanes, Barrett is not about to rely on talent alone – instead linking with former Taranaki and Central Districts coach Debu Banik.
"I look forward to this game every year and try and put in a bit of work over the summer by having a few net sessions with my old Taranaki coach," Barrett says.
"Every summer, regardless of whether this game was on I'd still go and hit balls with him. It's a way of staying fit for me and another little challenge outside footy. There's a few things that correlate with each other. He hits me a few high ball catches and still thinks that goes a long way to me catching bombs."
In the past two weeks Barrett managed two 40 over second-grade hit outs with his local club side Pihama. While 82 against the Boys' High second XI was the individual highlight, Barrett savoured winning the local "Ashes" – a traditional annual fixture – against Orua.
"It was the first time I got to play in the Ashes and we got a win so that was bloody good.
"I've played a couple of club games to try get my body up to scratch so I don't hurt myself and hit a few balls to get my eye in a wee bit.
"You certainly don't want to go in cold when I know how many eyeballs are going to be on the TV. Last time we were at Hagley it was almost sold out so you don't want to set yourself up to fail or embarrassment.
"There's a wee uni contingent turning up. No doubt they'll be there with bells on in a late sunny afternoon in Christchurch. It'll be my first time under lights there.
"Cricket is one of those games you can prepare as much as you want and still get a good ball and get out early."
Barrett hopes Kaylum Boshier, the former New Zealand under-19 cricket captain turned Taranaki and Chiefs flanker, can notch a half century and nominates Crusaders fullback Will Jordan as a dark horse for Team Rugby.
Westlake's Jock McKenzie is another dual talent, having represented NZ under 19s in cricket and the NZ Maori under 18 rugby side in the same week two years ago.
"It's Will Jordan's first time playing and he was sharp at Christchurch Boys' and it's good to have Kaylum back he was a gun a couple of years ago and still got it."
As for the opposition, a former Black Caps all-rounder could be targeted.
"They've got a few ring-ins – they know how important it is for them to win this one.
"Reading their team list I'm not sure where I can find too many weaknesses when you look at Grant Elliott, Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills… maybe Scott Styris."
Sir Graham Henry (Coach)
WILDCARD - Mathew Sinclair
Scott Robertson (Team Manager)
Stephen Fleming (Capt & Coach)
WILDCARD - Jordan Watson