Recalled All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke didn’t expect to be in the vanguard of New Zealand’s quest for redemption when they battle the Springboks in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Clarke, who was ruled out of the shock series defeat by Ireland due to injury, replaces Sevu Reece at left wing for the crunch clash with the Boks at Mbombela Stadium as All Blacks coach Ian Foster opts for power over pure pace.
“My initial thoughts were that I’d come off the bench because it’s been so long since I’ve played [and] close to three months since I last played a professional game,” the 23-year-old said.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to see how much trust Fozzie had in me … just been a big journey getting back into this black jersey.”
The Boks put teams under pressure by playing a strong, solid first phase, big defence and a good kicking game, which is ably supported by their renowned physicality.
“There’s two teams that I’ve always wanted to play [against] – England and South Africa,” said Clarke, who will play his first Test in two years as part of a new-look All Blacks match-day 23 for the first Rugby Championship Test of 2022.
“A lot of people talk around [former All Blacks loose forward] Michael Jones, how he is the nicest guy off the field and on the field he is completely different, and it’s the same with the South Africans.
“The kindest people off the field and then on it they are just completely different! And that’s why I’m excited to play them because they’re big, fast and strong, and they’re currently the world champs and you’re only going to measure yourself up to the best.”
Can’t wait to see Caleb back in the black jersey 🖤 pic.twitter.com/Z9IM2xjRVd
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 4, 2022
Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images