Rugby: Dan Carter set to make rare club rugby appearance for Southbridge

All Blacks great Dan Carter is making a homecoming for some grassroots rugby.

The newly signed Blues player will travel south this weekend with the intention to take the field for his beloved Southbridge club in Canterbury.

"That's the plan," Carter tells Newshub. "I'm hopeful to get down there and pull on the blue and white of the Southbridge hoops this weekend."

After seven months away from the field, it offers an ideal opportunity for Carter to regain some match conditioning as he eyes a debut for his new Super Rugby franchise, which has a bye this weekend after an undefeated start to the revised competition.

"The last three weeks have been pretty intense training… gradually building up my contact and getting my confidence back for playing again, so a bit of club rugby would be good." 

The three-time World Rugby Player of the Year hasn't played a game of competitive rugby since he led the Kobelco Steelers to victory in the final of Japan's Top League in December.

Carter played all of his age-group rugby for Southbridge, as did his father Neville, who is still heavily involved with the club, where he's a committee member and oversees the mini-museum it houses to commemorate his son's decorated career.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner last appeared for Southbridge in 2014, as he worked his way back to fitness for the Crusaders. Prior to that was in 2009, when he played his first game in six months after rupturing his achilles during his stint with Perpignan in France. 

Over 2000 spectators turned up that day, setting new clubroom heights for beer consumption. That figure may well be pushed on Saturday, when they take on West Melton in the Ellesmere senior competition.

Carter watches a shot at goal during his appearance for Southbridge in 2009.
Carter watches a shot at goal during his appearance for Southbridge in 2009. Photo credit: Getty

And Carter's on-field contribution comes in hand in hand with a significant financial one. 

Earlier this month, the 38-year-old put his 70th All Blacks jersey up for auction to help raise funds for the club, whose coffers have been feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Carter presented the jersey to its new owner Chris Murdoch, who won the auction with a bid of $21,300.

"It's difficult times at the moment for a lot of people and a lot of local sports clubs," Carter notes. "There have been so many memories for me at the Southbridge rugby club and they asked me if I had any fundraising ideas or ways to help them through this difficult period.

"Auctioning off one of my All Black jerseys is something I never thought I'd do but then I never thought we'd be in a worldwide pandemic.

"I'm just happy to help out and even more grateful to Chris, who forked out a lot of money to purchase the jersey."

Like many great plans before it, rugby-mad Murdoch plotted to bid on the prized piece of memorabilia with a few mates over a few beers to celebrate his birthday, never genuinely expecting to win.

"We talked about the jersey and how we wouldn't mind owning it," he recalls. 

"The boys said have a crack at it and if you get it, which you probably won't, we'll all put the hat around. So, we put one bid in, and we won it.

"I was really surprised. I thought the bidding would've gone a bit crazier there at the end. Pretty stoked to have it though, it's amazing."

But explaining the somewhat extravagant purchase to his wife was an altogether different challenge.

"That was a bit difficult…. but I smoothed it over after a while. She's come around now."