WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Auckland Blues are hoping Caleb Clarke will be able to play at least some part in the Super Rugby playoffs despite the All Blacks winger being sidelined for up to a month by a hamstring injury.
One of the most potent attacking weapons in the game, Clarke pulled up injured during the 21-19 win over the ACT Brumbies in Canberra last weekend that guaranteed the Blues top spot in the standings at the end of the regular season.
Clarke will definitely miss this week's trip to Sydney to face the resurgent New South Wales Waratahs but assistant coach Daniel Halangahu said there was some hope that he might be available for the semi-finals or final.
"He's not available this week. Beyond that, with the size of his legs, maybe they heal faster than others," he told New Zealand Herald on Tuesday.
"It is bad timing, especially the way he is playing and the way he started that match. He's an important part of what we're doing. We feel for him. Injuries are a horrible part of the game.
"How he pulls up by the end of this week will be important to see if it's as bad as some hamstrings are."
That optimism would have been music to the ears of the All Blacks selectors, who will be banking on Clarke to be a big factor when Ireland visit New Zealand for three tests in July.
Despite having locked up home advantage throughout the playoffs and earning the opportunity to rest some players, the Blues will be crossing the Tasman Sea determined to extend their winning streak to 13 matches, Halangahu said.
"We're going to Sydney and we're going to win. That's been the strongest message around here today," added the former Waratahs flyhalf.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Edmund Klamann)