Colin Slade is itching to get out on the rugby field but the
opening game of the season may be too soon.
Slade was in Auckland yesterday as part of the Super 15
launch but you get the feeling he would rather be training
and getting his body right for the season.
Slade broke his leg last year and has slowly been working his
way back to full fitness.
But, in a way, his previous injury problems are making sure
he is not rushing the process.
''It is touch and go for that first game. I could probably
play at a stretch but I learnt from last year where I
probably came back too soon and paid for it,'' Slade said.
Slade (25) has yet to discuss his return fully with
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph but the opener - against the
Chiefs in Dunedin on March 22 - looks unlikely.
The Highlanders development side is playing the Crusaders
Knights in Christchurch on February 23 so Slade may look to
play a brief role in that.
The team has a bye in the second round but is looking to play
a game against a combined Otago-Southland side, which Slade
may get involved in.
He was back doing contact work, kicking the ball around and
working on all parts of his game.
''I'm just missing probably that top 5% - getting a bit more
top-line speed and move on my feet. I need a little bit more
contact. But I've got real itchy feet, really itchy.''
Slade suffered a setback last week when he strained a tendon
in his calf and was out of training for a week and a-half. It
was the same leg which he broke last year against the
Brumbies. Slade said it was just muscles getting used to
working hard again.
Although he has played no part in the first two warm-up
games, the Canterbury first five-eighth has been impressed
with what he has seen from his team-mates.
''The last couple of years we have lost all our pre-season
games and in the greater scheme of things it probably does
not mean a lot, but it is always good to win. It can give the
guys a bit of confidence.''
Slade said training had been intense right from pre-season
and now that the All Blacks were back in the fold, the side
was gelling well.
''You get the All Black guys to mix into our team. And Jamie
[Joseph] has made it clear that it is not us joining into
them. They [All Blacks] had to catch up with us.''
Their presence had really added value, he said.