All Blacks star Savea Crusaders' Super threat

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014
Julian Savea
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
DANGERMAN: Julian Savea, who scored a hat-trick for the All Blacks against England in Hamilton, is the Hurricanes' dangerman against the Crusaders.

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Colin Slade is no fool - he may have been ensconced in Waikato Stadium's main stand last Saturday but he won't have missed the mortified expressions on the England players' faces as the rampaging Julian Savea collected three tries during the All Blacks' 36-13 triumph.

England coach Stuart Lancaster is probably still having unwanted flashbacks about the balance, power and sweet handling skills that make Savea such a dangerous package but now the big rig, this time in the Hurricanes colours, is the Crusaders' problem.

Crusaders first five-eighth Slade, more than anyone, knows that careless kicks to Savea and his rejuvenated wing partner, Cory Jane, could prove catastrophic during tonight's Super Rugby fixture at Wellington's Cake Tin. "Absolutely. They are going to get some opportunities out there, no doubt, because that's just the way rugby goes," Slade said.

"But we can't give them more than that. If we can limit their opportunities, we have got a bigger chance of winning."

It is a sound theory. Now the execution will be crucial.

Slade was not required for active duty during the tests but training alongside the explosive Savea would have reiterated why gifting him the ball is suicidal.

Wings Nafi Tuitavake and Johnny McNicholl's defensive problems, combined with a lack of accuracy when Slade kicked downfield, were exploited when the Canes beat the Crusaders 29-26 on March 28.

There can be no room for such blunders again.

The speed of the wings' kick-chase needs to be rapid and if the Hurricanes succeed in adding an extra number into their backline, they cannot afford to get sucked in-field like England wings Chris Ashton and Marland Yarde did in Hamilton.

With Slade, who was instrumental in tugging the team out of the abyss when they dropped three of their first five games, the Crusaders have clambered to the top of the New Zealand conference.

The worry is that a defeat could have them sliding out of the top six. "I suppose, like anything, when they get some confidence up, they are hard to stop," Slade added in reference to Savea and Jane.

"We have just to limit their opportunities and be smart around what we do tactically, and hopefully we can shut them down if they get the ball."

The June test window has done the Crusaders few favours.

Slade has not played since May 30 because Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett were preferred for the tests.

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Richie McCaw is out for at least three weeks with a broken rib, Israel Dagg is nursing his knee injury and in-form wing Nemani Nadolo is still playing for Fiji.

In addition, Kieran Read and Owen Franks have been named on the bench.

The return of Dan Carter from his sabbatical - he is in the reserves - is an added incentive for Slade to immediately recapture his pre-test form. The pressure to perform, regardless of whether Carter was around, was constant, he said.

But now it becomes even more intense as the Crusaders attempt to secure a playoff berth.

"DC has obviously only just come back, so it takes some time to get back into the swing of things.

"When he does, he's a quality player but that's for them [the coaches] to lose sleep over, not me," Slade said.

The return of Carter highlights the situation of Slade - who signed a two-year deal with the Crusaders when he left the Highlanders last year - not getting regular starts at No 10 during a World Cup year.

"No, I don't regret it at all," Slade said.

"The Crusaders have offered me some security to come back and I'm enjoying it."

- The Press

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