Sleepless nights, anxious waiting by the phone and eventual tears of joy were shared by seven rookie All Blacks named in Ian Foster's maiden squad on Sunday.
All 46 expectant players involved in Saturday night's North against South fixture in Wellington were told by All Blacks management they would receive a call the following morning between 7.30 and 8.30am to inform them whether they had made the 35-man squad.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster delivered the bad news to those not selected; manager Darren Shand had the nicer task of making dreams a reality.
The wait from the end of the North South match to that phone call was not a pleasant experience for the new caps, though.
Caleb Clarke, one of seven test rookies and 10 Blues included in the squad, settled his nerves on the left wing for the North with a 40-metre run from the opening kickoff but it was a different story post-match. He tossed and turned all night, keeping roommate Aaron Smith awake. So, too, did 20-year-old Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa'i while rooming with soon-to-be Taranaki teammate Beauden Barrett.
Hoskins Sotutu woke at 6.30am and messaged Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu to go for a coffee but he instead told him to go back to sleep. The next hour-and-a-half waiting for Shand to call felt like a lifetime.
All the rookie inclusions were overjoyed when they finally heard the news – none more so than Clarke who now gets the chance to follow his father, Eroni, into the coveted black jersey.
"There were a lot of nerves waiting for that phone call," Clarke, the destructive Blues wing, said. "I was actually contemplating turning off my phone and missing it and waiting for the announcement but I'm very grateful to be in this position now and getting to live out a dream.
"It was a special moment. I finished the call and started crying tears of joy – just because this has been such as lifelong dream and getting to do something that my dad did as well was extra special."
Clarke's mother, Siala, filmed the reaction of younger brothers Jireh, 11, and Zion, 9, to enhance the sense of occasion.
Telling his father topped off the achievement for the 21-year-old who began this year with sights set on competing in the Olympics with the sevens side, but instead played an influential role for the Blues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I kind of delayed telling him. I said 'happy Father's Day, what did you get, how was your breakfast?' just having a normal conversation right up until the end when I said 'here's another gift… I made the squad'. I could hear my little brothers in the room so it was special to share that moment with my family.
"At the start of the year I was hoping to make an Olympic squad and tick off a goal there but you just never know how anything works, especially throughout this pandemic time it's affected a lot of people so I'm grateful to be in this position."
Vaa'i is still coming to terms with his rapid rise which propelled him from timber fencing with his father to being called into the Chiefs squad when injuries hit their second-row stocks and, suddenly, into the All Blacks in a matter of months.
"I was working with my old man in Auckland during Level 3 and then I got a call from the Chiefs CEO asking if I could come down and play for the squad," Vaa'i said. "I took it and to be starting the majority of the games is something special I'll hold close to my heart. Once I told my family the news they all burst into tears."
Sotutu was a standout for the Blues this season before a knee injury forced him out of action for the backend of Super Rugby Aotearoa. He returned for the North South game, starting at No 8 alongside Akira Ioane and Ardie Savea in the loose trio, and confirmed his test potential with dynamic bursts and offloads down the edge.
Sotutu's father, Waisake, starred on the wing for Auckland, the Blues and Fiji and has been the biggest influence on the 22-year-old's career.
"I owe a lot to that dude. Being a young rugby player you always want to grow up and play for the All Blacks. At the beginning of this year I wasn't even thinking about it. I just wanted to start and play well for the Blues. I'm pretty lucky to have this opportunity."