When Caleb Clarke arrived at Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s south Auckland home for training, he didn’t have any running shoes.
He’d thought they'd be on the grass somewhere, so he had packed his boots.
“We were doing hill sprints up his long driveway,” Clarke says, “so I needed some shoes.”
Luckily Tuivasa-Scheck’s neighbour has the same size feet as Clarke, so he did the exhausting hill sprint shuttles in champion boxer Joseph Parker’s runners.
It was, to say the least, a surreal experience for Clarke capped by the brutally exhausting nature of the workout that left him a broken young man.
“It was intense and it left me in tears,” Clarke admits.
He’s been training with Tuivasa-Sheck since the former Warriors captain left the NRL last year to pursue a goal of playing for the All Blacks at next year’s World Cup.
He would have played for Auckland in the Bunnings NPC but that was curtailed by Covid so Tuivasa-Sheck’s first game will be preseason with the Blues before things get serious in Super Rugby Pacific.
Tuivasa-Sheck will play second five for the Blues, in a backline that will, at some times in the season, see him with Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane on either side of him.
It’s a combination that will have commentators reaching for their Thesauruses as they look for adjectives. Exciting and explosive are two that come to mind for a midfield that could also feature for the All Blacks at the World Cup in France, with Barrett and Richie Mo'unga vying to be the first five.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald admits it’s a backline to get bums on seats at Eden Park though he’s at pains to say there is plenty of competition for places.
But he is genuinely excited. MacDonald felt Ioane was outstanding for the All Blacks at centre with his support play, timing of his pass and ability to create space for others.
Continue this story in our Feb/March issue.
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