Colin Slade's Highlanders future uncertain

MAKING GAINS: Colin Slade has had a hard time with injury in recent years.
MAKING GAINS: Colin Slade has had a hard time with injury in recent years.

Colin Slade is committed to playing for Canterbury but has yet to decide whether he will return to the Highlanders next year.

The 25-year-old, who played for the Crusaders for two years before joining the Highlanders in 2011, will be a free agent after the Super Rugby season ends. 

Although a return to the Crusaders would make sense, especially with Dan Carter tipped to skip the 2014 campaign and three first five-eighths expected to be selected, Slade would not be drawn into discussing whether a return was possible.

''I'm not sure, I don't like talking contracts, I'm yet to make a decision. I'm definitely looking to stay for a couple of more years and will tidy that up at the end of the Super Rugby season.''

The 25-year-old was more definitive in his views about signing for an offshore club.

''I would be lying to you if I said I hadn't thought about it ... But I think if I did that at this stage of my career I would end up kicking myself and regretting it.''

The 10-test All Black arguably played some of his best Super Rugby with the Crusaders where his value was realised at first-five, wing and fullback in 2009 and 2010.

His first two seasons with the Highlanders totalled just seven appearances, mainly because of broken jaws and a broken leg. 

Slade, who moved to Dunedin because former All Blacks coach Graham Henry wanted him to get more starts at first-five, recovered from his injuries before being cut down by a groin tear in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina. 

Although able to avoid serious injury this season, the Highlanders' dreadful 2-12 record has forced Slade to grapple with a different set of baggage - the heat that accompanies a deflating campaign.

''You could use a lot of words to describe it. It's not much fun losing every week and it can be hard to find confidence at times because you are constantly looking at the negatives," he said.

''There has been a lot of soul-searching. There hasn't been lot of love from the media and public and, rightly so, I suppose but the team haven't turned on each other.''

Playing for the All Blacks remains a goal. Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have cemented their places as Carter's back-up and Tom Taylor is also capable of covering No 10 along with second-five and fullback. 

But Slade is anticipating that Canterbury's penchant for attacking should have a positive influence on his confidence levels during the NPC.

''I'm looking forward to using their game-plan, just the way they play. Hopefully I can make it through the season without a significant injury.''

Fairfax Media