Colin Slade, a star returns for Crusaders

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 17:25 28/02/2014

Ups and downs of Colin Slade

Colin Slade
IAIN MCGREGOR/ Fairfax NZ
STAR PLAYER: Colin Slade.

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Ups and downs of Colin Slade

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Kieran Read is back. Benji is still on the bench. The Blues first-five is on debut.

There have been a lot of talking points leading into the blockbuster Super 15 match between the Blues and Crusaders tonight, but everyone seems to be missing the biggest one of all.

Colin Slade is back.

Canterbury's eighth-favourite rugby son - behind Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Read and the Whitelock brothers - returns from the wilderness of Dunedin, and many seasons of injuries, to oust Israel Dagg as Crusaders' fullback.

Slade's return is by far the most intriguing storyline of this encounter.

Will he make it through the warm-up without getting injured?

How long until his jaw breaks or his knees implode?

How many times will Sky Sport show Israel Dagg's face on the bench after Slade makes a mistake (presuming he will make any)?

Poor old Dagg, he must have thought his form for the All Blacks last year would have made the Crusaders coaches forget how bad he was for them during the 2013 season.

After one game the memories came flooding back for Todd Blackadder and now the Sladeinator returns.

Everyone in New Zealand knows Read is going to have, at the very least, a solid game tonight - he's the best player in the world after all.

Some people might be excited by Benji Marshall and what he can come up with in his second crack at Super Rugby, but he can't even beat out forth-choice first-five Simon Hickey to the starting line-up, so his presence will provide only a brief interlude to the Slade show.

The selection of Slade was also a cunning move by the Crusaders coaches in respect to Marshall.

When Marshall does eventually enter the fray he will be up against the reliability, predictability and tactical awareness of Slade.

Slade has flashes of brilliance, including his solo chip and chase try against Fiji in a warm-up match to his ill-fated 2011 Rugby World Cup.

But he's also suffered much injury along the way.

What will come for Slade tonight? 80 minutes of blockbuster play? A steady hand at the back? Or a broken body?

Tune in to Stuff for live commentary and stats updates during tonight's match between the Blues and Crusaders. Kick-off 7.35pm.

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