Caleb Clarke is the son of former All Black and Auckland mainstay Eroni Clarke. Like his father, Caleb is a gentle, pious and affable personality with an abundance of talent and a fierce desire to succeed. Being the son of a top class player does have some pitfalls though.
"When I was in Year 9 and 10 a lot of people used to come up to me and say 'we expect big things from you.' That used to scare me, but now I have more confidence in my own game," Clarke explains.
Caleb plays on the wing and was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools last year. He admits he was surprised to be chosen.
"At the start of the year I thought it would be nice to make the New Zealand Schools,' but it didn't feel like an attainable goal because not many Year 12's are selected. When I made the camp, I thought I could actually do this.”
Clarke missed the New Zealand Barbarians fixture with a stress fracture in his hand, but recovered in time to make the tour of Australia. He started in the resounding 62-3 victory against Samoa and appeared in the 32-8 win over Australia.
"It was great to get one over our Trans-Tasman rivals. Although I was surprised by how big the final score was I thought we really deserved to win because we all put in so much hard work," Clark reflects.
Mount Albert Grammar School have started 2016 in an encouraging fashion. A fortnight ago they successfully defended their Blues Ten's title. Last year MAGS faded after a strong start to finish fifth in 1A. What did Clarke learn about this setback?
"I think we need to have the desire to be the best we can be the whole season. When we played King's we really wanted to beat them and the feeling before that game was real focussed and we played well. Before other games that intent was missing," Clarke admits.
This Saturday MAGS feature in the opening Land Rover First XV match against Northland's Kaitaia College. Despite a vastly superior pedigree in rugby Clarke is not taking anything for granted.
"We expect a good game. We actually went up there a couple of weeks ago and played them. They definitely tested us and gave us things to work on like the speed of our ruck defence."
Breaching defences is something MAGS could be very adept at this season. They have genuine speed merchants in their backline. Fullback/wing Niven Longopoa is the North Island under-18 hurdles champion, first-five/second-five Paul Roache is a top-ten ranked sprinter in Auckland and Clarke has an extensive background in athletics.
"My dad got me into athletics. He wanted to teach me how to run properly and it's been really good for my rugby. My proudest achievements in athletics are winning the Auckland 200m title this year and winning the 100 and 200m in the Auckland versus New South Wales meet in Sydney when I was 11."
Number 11 was the iconic jersey number of the world's most famous rugby winger, the late Jonah Lomu. Eroni Clarke and Lomu were close friends and Clarke helped to organise a special Polynesian memorial service for the fallen champion. Being the son of a famous rugby player has obvious advantages.
"I would love to have spent more time with Jonah. He was a great player and man. I have met Israel Folau. He is a friend of a pastor my dad knows. He is a real humble guy who shared so many of his life experiences with me."
Mount Albert Grammar School vs. Kaitaia College is a curtain raiser to the Blues vs. Sharks Super rugby match at Eden Park. Land Rover First XV rugby in 2016 kicks off at 5pm.
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