Rugby: Hope Slade may be available for start of season

Colin Slade
Colin Slade
Colin Slade's availability for the start of the season is still up in the air.

Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod said Slade was making progress as expected and they were hoping he would be right for the start of the season.

He was going through performance movement training at the moment which meant he was just working on movements in line with his first five-eighth position.

He had yet to do contact work but McLeod joked first five-eighths did not make much contact in a game anyway.

Slade suffered some serious injuries in his two years with the Highlanders and a broken leg had ended his season in March last year.

He has steadily worked his way back to fitness but did not strip for the warm-up game against the Chiefs last Saturday.

The side was training solidly this week, readying itself for a warm-up game against the Crusaders at Oamaru on Friday night. All Black midfield back Ma'a Nonu joined the camp yesterday so all players are now with the squad.

McLeod said Nonu was keen yesterday and, although he was likely to be blowing hard after his first game, he appeared in good shape.

The side was beaten 36-14 in the match against the Chiefs in Taupo McLeod said there were some disappointing aspects in that game but was good to get out on the paddock and start playing.

The side got to test its systems and start working on combinations.

McLeod said he had been nothing but impressed by his first months in the South but knows the real work is about to begin.

McLeod, a former All Black midfield back, is part of a new coaching team at the Highlanders, and is enjoying working with his fellow coaches and players.

''Obviously down here is a lot new for us as a family but so far we are really enjoying it. I am getting to know the players and the local guys down here and find out what a real southern man is,'' McLeod said.

''I am enjoying the way people are very friendly down here and that is one difference I have noticed.''

The Highlanders head to Wanaka next week for a camp, with families included, before their final warm-up game against the Blues in Queenstown.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders have named their side for the match in Oamaru on Friday.

Israel Dagg will have a run at centre while All Blacks Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano come back into the team. Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Dan Carter will not strip.

Former Highlanders winger Telusa Veainu has joined the Crusaders as interim cover for the outside backs with both Zac Guildford and Kurt Baker out.

The full opening round of the competition has handed the Crusaders a bye so their first game is not until March 1 against the Blues at Eden Park.


Crusaders team
To play Highlanders

Tom Marshall, Adam Whitelock, Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty (captain), Johnny McNicholl, Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis, Jordan Taufua, Shane Christie, Luke Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Luke Romano, Pa'ea Fa'anunu, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Adrian Barone, Joe Moody, Jimmy Tupou, Jeremy Sua, Willi Heinz, Robbie Fruean, Telusa Veainu, Joel Everson, Mitch Graham.