Versatile Colin Slade ponders first-five spot

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
Colin Slade
IAIN MACGREGOR/ Fairfax NZ

READY TO POUNCE: Colin Slade would like to play first-five for the Crusaders, but is happy enough at fullback - for now.

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Colin Slade must feel a little nostalgic when he sights the Crusaders No 10 jersey.

Last year's announcement Slade was returning to the franchise created visions of him operating at first five-eighth as a replacement for the absent Dan Carter.

It hasn't worked out that way. Not yet, anyway.

A calf complaint ruled Slade out of the first fixture against the Chiefs. He then started at fullback against the Blues and Stormers.

Slade is intelligent enough not to needle his coaches by making any explosive remarks, but there's little doubt he wants to play at No 10.

''Obviously that is my preferred position, but I am just really happy to be on the field and contributing. The way we play and the reason I was at fullback is that we basically play with two first-fives.

''It doesn't matter about the number on the jersey, the playmaker can stand on either side of the ruck.''

Tyler Bleyendaal started against the Chiefs before losing his position to Tom Taylor.

Slade, who spent three seasons at the Highlanders after representing the Crusaders in 2009-10, knows a defeat to the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night would be unacceptable - especially with the bye the following weekend.

Watching the Crusaders backs struggle to make significant line breaks against the Stormers was painful.

Skipper Jean de Villiers successfully led his rushing backline into forcing the Crusaders into errors and lateral running and they surprised the home side by not kicking as much as expected.

Slade said whether the backs adjusted their alignment, and stood deeper to give them more time when faced with sprinting tacklers, was ''situation dependent''.

''Sometimes we did get a little bit flat, that was the nature of their defence a little bit. But, like you said,  sometimes we need to punch on to that ball. It's just a matter of reading the situation, reading the cues, reading the defence and being able to react.''

Slade earned his 11th test cap as a replacement in the All Blacks' 27-16 win over the Wallabies in Wellington last August. Injury ruined his chances of being selected on the northern tour.

The Crusaders, given their reputation, should bowl the Rebels.

Unfortunately they have proved in the past that such thinking is ridiculous. Last season they scraped home 30-26 in Christchurch and were humiliated 28-19 in Melbourne in 2012.

The Rebels are a random bunch. After thumping the Cheetahs 35-14 in their first match they capitulated 32-7 to the Force last weekend.

Slade also expects to meet with his ex-Highlanders team-mate and All Black Tamati Ellison for a coffee in Melbourne.

''He's not a bad player is he? I have played a bit with Tams and he's be one to watch. We have a little bit of banter now and again and no doubt we will catch-up when we are over there.''

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