'Tougher edge' sharpens Colin Slade's resolve

Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014
Colin Slade
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HITTING THE GAS: Crusader Colin Slade bursts through a gap during his side's clash with the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night. He has scored 43 points for the Crusaders in their last two matches.

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Not so long ago Colin Slade was a worried man.

After their 29-26 defeat to the Hurricanes on March 28 Slade wasn't convinced the Crusaders had it in them to win all their away games against the Lions, Cheetahs and Chiefs and arrest their Super Rugby slide.

"Probably not, if I am being brutal," Slade said as he cast his mind back to when his side held a shaky 2-3 record.

"You never really know until you have been in that situation as a team - and now we know we can win games. It's very pleasing. The boys are feeling a lot more confident and rightly so."

How quickly things have changed.

Three consecutive wins, Saturday night's 18-17 morale boosting victory over the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium the latest, have deleted the self doubts that threatened to toss the Crusaders season under a bus.

It was during a meeting in their hotel complex in Johannesburg, where they were preparing to face the Lions, that some truths were issued and harsh words spoken.

"When we first arrived in Africa we locked ourselves in a room and asked a few questions of ourselves," Slade added. "We have certainly found a tougher edge in these tighter games."

That discussion forced the players to address their habit of breaking their pre-match pledges to stick to their strategies and ask why they were making so many daft errors.

"We needed to be more disciplined in our execution on attack, not do things out of the game plan. We also had to be tougher on defence, work harder to help the boys out. That's what it's all about."

The pulsating win over the Chiefs could prove the defining moment of the Crusaders' season.

Where teams viewed them as a vulnerable outfit, especially in the absence of Dan Carter, they are now likely to meet a side with a layer of armour plating around their underbelly.

First five-eighth Slade, who kicked six penalties against the Chiefs and contributed 25 points in the 52-31 victory over the Cheetahs a week earlier, is proving his value.

Despite luring Slade away from the Highlanders coach Todd Blackadder refused to guarantee him a No 10 jersey ahead of Tom Taylor and Tyler Bleyendaal.

Blackadder must now be considering Slade his buy of the off-season.

Slade, however, was mortified that two of kicks - one a sitter - struck the uprights and ricocheted back into the field of play at Waikato Stadium.

"Jeez, that's four in three weeks. They're killing my percentages. It's never nice missing, one I hit a bit averagely but the other one I struck well. But I'm enjoying kicking at the moment which is a positive sign."

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With Carter unavailable and Aaron Cruden nursing a broken thumb, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will also be taking interest in Slade's performances ahead of the June series against England.

Slade swerved that subject.

"That's not a big drive for me at the moment," he said. "When I arrived in this team I had a fight for the No 10 jersey. I'm just trying to keep it and get my career back on track so to speak."

- The Press

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