Super Rugby
Slade ready to return for Highlanders
March 13, 2013
Highlanders fly-half Colin Slade is taken off the field with a suspected broken leg, Brumbies v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia, March 24, 2012
Many thought Colin Slade would not play competitively again after he broke his fibula and tibia in March 2012 © Getty Images

Colin Slade is set to start his first Super Rugby match for almost a year when the Highlanders play the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday night.

Slade, 25, suffered no ill-effects when he replaced the out-of-form Lima Sopoaga for the last 43 minutes of the game against the Cheetahs last weekend.

It has been a horrendous two years for the 10-test All Black, including two broken jaws, a severe groin injury during the 2011 World Cup and a badly broken leg against the Brumbies in Canberra on March 24 last year. It has been a test of character for Slade, who is in his third season for the Highlanders, and he acknowledged there had been some dark times.

"Personally, I took a lot of confidence from the game-time against the Cheetahs," he said. "I didn't even think about my injury, it was more about trying to help the team. I was just disappointed we lost and we're certainly looking to play better this weekend and get our first win."

Slade said he was available to start in the No.10 jersey if head coach Jamie Joseph wanted him as the injury-hit Highlanders seek to kick-start their season, and added he remembered March 24 last year "very well for all the wrong reasons. It's been a long road back. There's been a lot of rehab, a lot of doctor and physio appointments, x-rays and a lot of mentally depressing times.

"I'm just looking ahead now and I'm keen to string a few performances together. Hopefully I can look back at the end of the year and say that I've played almost the whole season."

Many thought he would not play competitively again after he broke his fibula and tibia in Canberra and had to undergo surgery. "The first three months were difficult as I had to learn to walk again. That was pretty tough but then there is the mental side of things. I suppose it's trying to maintain that belief of trying to play at the top level again. I've felt pretty good so far so hopefully I'm on track from that perspective."

He has played for the Highlanders development and in an internal trial match so he has some rugby under his belt. "It's a big game for both sides," Slade said of the match against the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium. "If they lose or we lose, it becomes an issue for the beaten team. Our side is too good in terms of personnel to be written off this early in the year so it's just a matter of getting our heads right and getting the best out of individuals and the team."

He said patience had been the key word for the backs this week after the error-ridden display against the Cheetahs. "We have to be prepared to play multiple phases before we try to deliver the killer blow. And, for the pack, it's a matter of them giving us some go-forward."

Wife Emma has been a major support to Slade during the past two years. "We've had a lot of time together so that was one good thing," he said. "There's always a silver lining. But now I'm really keep to rip into the season."

Ma'a Nonu remains in doubt because of a nagging knee injury and, with Tamati Ellison and Shaun Treeby already sidelined with long-term injuries, Manawatu youngster Jason Emery may pair with Phil Burleigh in the midfield against the Hurricanes.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick share all the latest from the rugby rumour mill and preview this weekend's Six Nations and Super Rugby action.
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