First-five Colin Slade to return to Crusaders

GOING HOME: Jamie Joseph is resigned to losing his playmaker Colin Slade to the Crusaders next season.
GOING HOME: Jamie Joseph is resigned to losing his playmaker Colin Slade to the Crusaders next season.

Colin Slade's return to the Crusaders will be confirmed next week.

All Blacks first five-eighth Slade, who played for the Crusaders in 2009 and 2010 before signing with the Highlanders for the next three seasons, will re-join the Crusaders next year as they prepare for life without Dan Carter.

With Carter tipped to take his sabbatical Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who along with assistants Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger is in the process of having his contract extended, is already making plans for next season.

The arrival of Slade, who has played 10 tests, will also assist in off-setting the loss of utility back Tom Marshall who has signed a two-year contract with the Chiefs.

Although Slade will be seeking regular starts at first-five he can also play fullback and during his debut Super Rugby season in 2009 he proved a handy wing.

When Slade spoke to The Press a fortnight ago he indicated he would leave the Highlanders.

Coach Jamie Joseph has since acknowledged the 25-year-old, who was born and raised in Christchurch and has always returned to the city to play for Canterbury in the NPC, had told him the Crusaders were his preference for next year.

Last week Joseph announced he had signed Crusaders flanker Shane Christie, who has rarely been used by Blackadder this season.

Christie's opportunities of getting starts next year would have been limited because of the presence of Richie McCaw and Matt Todd in the squad.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders will struggle to make a profit from tonight's Super Rugby qualifying final against the Reds at AMI Stadium because of the small crowd.

Last night only around 11,000 tickets had sold. AMI Stadium has a 17,500 capacity.

As the hosting team the Crusaders, under Sanzar rules, are required to pay the Reds a fee of around $88,000.

The Crusaders are also obligated to pay a third of the Reds' travel costs.

Although Crusaders boss Hamish Riach hoped a big walk-up crowd could boost the attendance figure up to around 15,000 he acknowledged a financial loss was a possibility.

"There won't be a heck of a lot in it, but we have got a knock-out game of footy at home, and the Reds are something new for us because we haven't played them this year."

Last year's qualifying final against the Bulls attracted a 16,000-strong crowd but the Crusaders' costs were larger because of the logistical costs of flying them to and from South Africa.

Riach believed the school holidays had contributed to the lack of interest in tonight's match, noting the packages for children had dropped.

"The Take A Kid To Footy packages have been the slowest they have been all year. I'm not saying that is the sole reason for this but we have noticed that since the earthquake that people tend to leave the city more during the holidays."

Fairfax Media