James Mortimer 16.Jul.2013Getty Images
Although not confirmed at this stage, the Crusaders may be without Dan Carter for next season, with it widely expected that the current IRB World Player of the Year will take a sabbatical and will not be available for the red and blacks 2014 campaign.
Losing Slade to their Southern rivals would be a big blow as the young number ten has had an injury interrupted time with the Highlanders, although his recent matches have shown how crucial a talented first five-eighth is to a franchise’s cause.
Slade and Lima Sopoaga have been out, while Hayden Parker doesn’t have the experience to have the heavy mantle of guiding his team around the park for an entire Super Rugby season.
Add to this the early season struggles of Aaron Smith, and the Highlanders axis hasn’t been able to free up quite possibly the best backline that has ever worn the colours of the team from the Deep South.
Dominating attacking categories like running metres and clean breaks was indicative of the talent the team had on attack, but putting together the final touch, often the work of a side’s number ten, was missing for the team at crucial times.
Head coach Jamie Joseph confirmed to Fairfax Media that the franchise was already deep in the midst of next season’s recruitment.
“There's a lot of positions that we are looking for (but) both those 10s (Sopoaga and Parker) are very young and inexperienced so I'll be on the lookout for a more experienced ten,” he said,
“There's a lot of media around Slade but Lima's been just as unlucky. The fact that he's not an All Black means he hasn't had as much attention. He was out this year for two months with a high ankle sprain, the previous year he smashed his shoulder in game three against the Waratahs and was out for the season, the year before that he was only 19.”
“When you have a team that doesn't have a consistent 10 playing well, it's very hard to build a team around that. I'm not sure I can do much about that. It's been a real disappointment."