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Emotions high as Clarke prepares for final

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Sportal.co.nz     31 Jul 2013     Getty Images

Clarke admitted he had briefly reminisced in the lead-up to the semi-final against the Crusaders, but it was all in vain. Their 20-19 victory didn't just mean they advanced to their second straight home final.

For Clarke, the victory meant another week of the familiar. Of knowing the names of his teammates. Of knowing how to get to training on time. That changes in August.

Clarke departs for the Irish city of Connacht soon after the Super Rugby season. He admitted the adventure, and its predictable challenges, were exciting.

"I've obviously got to learn everybody's names - it's like going to school for the first day," Clarke said.

"Learning how they go about things and how you can slot into the system, finding places to live, places to drive around. The things you take for granted, the things that make up an adventure for that."

The future couldn't be further from his mind. With four days still until one of the biggest matches of his life – he described Saturday's home final against the Brumbies as 'something you play footy for' – there's no doubt any personal romance for New Zealand rugby is put aside.

"Obviously you can't go out there and play like an individual - we want to go out there and play like a team."

Instead, nerves and emotion will be benched in favour of tactics and logic. Details like what his role is and when the time is right to channel the aggression and physicality, the selflessness that has become the motto surrounding the 'Chiefs Mana' slogan.

"I just really focus on what we need to do and [there are] nerves because of not wanting to let the boys down."

Throughout the four years since his debut against the Crusaders in Christchurch, Clarke's commitment to ensuring he doesn't 'let the boys down' has seen him gain accolades amongst his peers. Some players believe he could have been an All Black, locking partner Brodie Retallick described him as one of the most underrated players in New Zealand.

Come Saturday, Clarke won't be changing his mindset. It's not about accolades for him or going out as a winner.

"More the fact that it's a final for our Chiefs team that has worked hard to be there."

Kickoff is scheduled to take place at 7.35pm at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium.