Colin Slade will play his first Rebel Sport Super 14 game on Saturday when he starts at first-five against the Chiefs at AMI Stadium.
The Crusaders website reports that Slade has enjoyed a quick rise to the big time since excelling for Canterbury in last season’s successful Air New Zealand Cup campaign.
The 21-year-old impressed in the absence of regular first-five Stephen Brett, who was struck down with a series of calf, quadriceps and knee injuries, and he has got the nod ahead of Brett for Saturday’s match which kicks off at 5.30pm.
Slade said he was looking forward to a match in which he will be marking All Blacks first-five Stephen Donald. “It’s great to get a start in the first match – it’s a dream come true,” he said. “I’ll be thinking about my role within the team and making sure I deliver. I won’t worry too much about specific players in the opposition.”
Other newcomers in the starting XV are No8 Thomas Waldrom and wing Jared Payne.
Waldrom has 30 caps for the Hurricanes to his name, while Payne is an exciting player from Northland who has previously turned out three times for the Chiefs.
On the reserves bench, hooker Jason Macdonald (the former Highlander who is the Crusaders’ only draft player this season), former Blues prop Bronson Murray and Canterbury newcomer, centre Adam Whitelock, could get their first caps for the Crusaders.
The Chiefs will provide the defending champions with a stern test on Saturday. They beat the Crusaders in 2007 and 2008 and have named several game-breakers in their side including flanker Liam Messam, No8 Sione Lauaki, wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and fullback Mils Muliaina.
Head coach Todd Blackadder is confident his team has prepared well for the challenge. He said: “We’ve looked at the Chiefs pre-season matches and have identified a few areas where we could have opportunities. They are a dangerous team though and we’ll need to be on top of our game.”
Halfback Kahn Fotuali’i, who was initially bracketed with Steve Alfeld, has been passed fit and will take his place on the reserves bench.
The Crusaders squad to play the Chiefs in the Rebel Sport Super 14 match at AMI Stadium on Saturday, February 14, kick-off 5.30pm, is:
Crusaders Starting XV:
7.Richie McCaw (c)