He’s just turned 19 but already the challenge for Caleb Clarke doesn’t get much bigger – helping the Blues turn around a nightmare season.
And if it wasn’t a big enough ask already, he’ll debut for the Auckland franchise away from home in Sydney against the Waratahs.
Coach Tana Umaga says the youngster is ready though.
“He has a lot of energy,” he said.
“He’s a young man with boundless amounts of energy.”
That energy is something the Blues need from the son of former franchise great Eroni and Clarke junior has the results to back his pedigree.
He stood out in the Brisbane 10’s for the team but was denied his full debut by injury early in the season.
Then an emergency appendectomy robbed him of a Commonwealth Games Sevens gold medal last month.
Away from the spotlight on Clarke, Umaga himself comes under more scrutiny with each loss.
“I think I’ve been in situations like this in previous roles that I’ve had, not just as a coach but as a player,” he said.
“I think my support networks are the same as what I had then and you just focus on what you can control and making sure that you focus everything on there and yes, frustration does come about and we all wish things would be different but it’s keeping faith in what you believe in.”
Umaga says it’s about staying strong for the team which this week will include the old heads of Jerome Kaino, captain Augie Pulu and test lock Patrick Tuipulotu.
Even when not playing, Tuipulotu says they’ve tried to add their voice.
“It’s happened over the whole course of the season really.
“Obviously a bit frustrating if it doesn’t get through to some people and they keep making the same mistake.”
The Blues will need to have those mistakes covered this weekend if they wish to keep the NZ Conference’s 36-game winning streak against Australian Super Rugby teams alive.