Blues wing Caleb Clarke does volunteer work with his church group during his time off but on the field he can exact a heavy price from opposition teams as the Waratahs quickly discovered at Eden Park.

Clarke's try at the weekend came via a beautifully-worked piece of deception involving Otere Black and TJ Faiane but mainly veteran Ma'a Nonu, who gave the defining pass at just the right moment, and Clarke himself, who was placed in the right spot and is incredibly hard to stop close to the line.

Probably the only hint at the fact that it was Clarke's first Super Rugby match of the year was his departure with bad cramp after 60 minutes. Until then the just-turned 20-year-old took full advantage of his opportunity as a replacement for the suspended Tanielu Tele'a with a power-packed, aggressive performance which belied his age and his gentle nature off the field.

A hallmark of the Blues' ball carrying in that opening quarter during which they took a 17-0 lead was the way their carriers made the advantage line and Clarke was a big influence in that.

Advertisement

The son of former Blues and All Blacks midfielder Eroni, Clarke made his debut for the side last year after just turning 19. A former under-20s representative and New Zealand sevens player, Clarke has pedigree, representative experience and a whole lot of talent.

"I'm going to focus solely on the Blues this year," Clarke told the Herald in February before the season kicked off. "I jumped around a bit with the sevens and under-20s last year which came with some challenges. Hopefully I will get a few more games under my belt and score some more tries – that's always good fun."

He would have received his first chance to impress in round two in Durban but in the days before the Blues match against the Sharks he tore a posterior cruciate (knee) ligament during training.

It didn't take too long for Clarke to cross the tryline last weekend – he paid tribute to recently departed teammate Mike Tamoaieta when doing so – after scoring tries for fun during his side's pre-season.

Caleb Clarke celebrates his try for the Blues against the Waratahs. Photo / Photosport
Caleb Clarke celebrates his try for the Blues against the Waratahs. Photo / Photosport

Coach Leon MacDonald has no doubt that Clarke is a special player with huge potential and, with Rieko Ioane on the other wing, Tele'a in good form before his suspension, Melani Nanai getting his feet going and Matt Duffie about to return from injury, the Blues have great depth in this area.

"He's got a massive future," MacDonald said of Clarke after his side's recent 32-29 victory, their fourth consecutive win of the season. "He's only young at 20. He's quick, he's powerful and he's got an eye for the tryline. That was a pretty significant injury he's come back from and to be able to bounce back in the way that he did in the time frame he did is a real credit to him. He's shown a lot of mental resilience there."

Clarke, whose first love was athletics and who posted a personal best 10.72sec 100m during high school – "that was probably seven kilograms ago" – said having dad Eroni as his mentor was the best he could hope for.

"He's probably one of my biggest critics and coaches. After games I have reviews here at the Blues and then I go home and have another reviewing session with him. It's great to have that support. If I have a bad game he definitely lets me know."

Advertisement

Over the summer, Clarke volunteered with the Red Frogs Support Network, a group that attends festivals and events and lends support to youngsters and those who are intoxicated.

"It's awesome – I went to a few festivals over New Years," he said. "It's something I love doing."

Extremely accommodating off the field but a fierce and driven competitor on it, Clarke is a young man going places in a hurry.