COMMENT: Eroni’s divine inspiration

Caleb Clarke (centre) with his father Eroni and mother Siala. Photo TVNZ

It was divine inspiration that settled Eroni Clarke’s nerves in the changing room before his first All Blacks test against a World XV in 1992.

“Remember, it’s better to give than receive,” Eroni confided to me what fellow Christian and good friend Michael Jones told him.

Like his son, Caleb, who made a sensational impact in his first test start against Australia at Eden Park in this year’s Bledisloe Cup 27-7 Eden Park triumph, Eroni was a hard-running midfield back and wing.

So too is 21-year-old, 107kg Caleb who was compared with the late 118kg Jonah Lomu after his thunderous start this month against the Dave Rennie-coached Wallabies who had drawn the first test in Wellington 16-all.

Deserved as the plaudits were on the strength of his Eden Park performance. they should not be allowed to place too great an expectation on this engaging young man’s future performances on the left wing.

Instead let him develop at his own pace rather than burdening him with the mantle of the next Lomu.

Having said that, I still expect him to create plenty of excitement just being himself.
With 20-year-old rookie lock Tupou Vaa’i also proving his worth and not afraid to mix it in the early brawl ignited by Dane Coles, it was pleasing to see the new boys acquit themselves so well.

It would also be nice to see 21-year-old Will Jordan make his test debut, either as a fullback where Beauden Barrett has done so well, or on the right wing where Jordie Barrett has replaced the electrifying Beauden Barrett.

That is not to suggest he is better than the talented Barrett brothers. But playing for the champion Crusaders, Jordan scored the most tries in Super Rugby Aotearoa, beat the most defenders and made the most metres.

Oh yeah, lest we forget, he also scored two crucial tries in the South Island’s last-minute win against the North when marking none other than Caleb Clarke.
With livewire Ardie Savea unavailable due to the birth of his second child, Hoskins Sotutu looks the most deserving replacement for the third test against Australia after starring for the Blues this season.

Coach Ian Foster also points out Akira Ioane has also made big gains this year upon improving his passing and work rate.

Both are worthy but Sotutu looks the more complete No 8 when one considers his superior lineout ability, tackling and all-round skills.

With bottom placed North Harbour’s brave second half effort overcoming top-placed Auckland 23-22. Waikato now lead the Mitre 10 rugby premiership on 27 points followed by Tasman and Auckland 25, Wellington 24, Canterbury 18, Bay of Plenty 17 (despite thrashing Canterbury 44-8) and North Harbour 16.
Co-leaders in the next division are Otago and Ranfurly Shield champions Hawkes Bay on 25.

Although the Warren Gatland Chiefs failed to win a Super Rugby Aoteroa game, their men and women Waikato teams lead their respective premierships with the women set to clash with Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Leading the Mooloo charge are brilliant Sevens stars Stacey Fluhler and Chelsea Alley.
Having beaten New Zealand men, the Silver Ferns will go into the first netball test against England in Hamilton with some confidence although retired captain and centre Laura Langman will be missed.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer