Those Super Rugby fans of appropriate age who cast their minds back will recall the golden days of the Auckland Blues in the late 90s; a team littered with individual brilliance that produced the goods to see them winning two consecutive Super Rugby titles in 1996 and 1997 and reaching the final in 1998, only to lose out narrowly to the Canterbury Crusaders.
A key component of that magic Blues backline was centre Eroni Clarke; a player of sublime skill, the image of whom diving over the try line remains a constant in the annals of the competition.
Clarke was born in Samoa in 1969 and emigrated to New Zealand as a youth. His father had played international rugby for Samoa but wanted his young family to grow up in New Zealand where, he felt, there would be more opportunities available. There, through his dynamic style of play, Eroni jumped into the upper echelons of the country’s rugby system, ending his career with 154 appearances for Auckland, 48 for the Blues, 2 for the Highlanders and 10 caps for the All Blacks.
Over the course of Super Rugby Aotearoa, fans would have witnessed some beautiful innovation in the Blues backline which culminating blistering performances by young Caleb Clarke – son of Eroni.
Caleb was born in Auckland in 1999. He was a star in the prestigious Mount Albert Grammar School First XV which earned him passage into the Blues set-up. Standing side-by-side, the strength of the genes between father and son is clear to see. Caleb, however, is an inch taller than Eroni and significantly heavier, weighing 107kg compared to the 90kg Eroni at the height of his powers.
Caleb is big, strong, cerebral and fast. At present, he is enjoying the freedom that comes with the number 11 on the back. It will, however, be interesting to see whether he evolves into the creative bruiser his father was in the outside centre channel.
At only 21, there is still plenty of time for young Caleb to reach his best. It is, indeed, an exciting prospect to witness the beautiful symmetry of his career slowly taking the same shape as that of his father’s. Hopefully, the junior will be able to out-do the senior in terms of appearances in the black jersey in the not so distant future.