Ethan Blackadder must wonder if an evil soul has stashed a voodoo doll resembling the Crusaders loose forward.
After all, it’s been one injury blow after the other in recent years, limiting the 25-year-old to just 10 Super Rugby appearances in three seasons.
But he’s back, and in better shape than ever before, having rehabbed the knee injury which restricted him to just two Super Rugby Aotearoa appearances last year.
Hed only just come back from a lengthy shoulder injury, and was soon back under the knife and watching from the sidelines.
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Blackadder, touted to play a big part for the Crusaders in the post Kieran Read and Jordan Taufua era, could not be blamed for resenting his run of injuries and endless rehab.
Only hes far from bitter ahead of Friday night’s pre-season match against the Highlanders in Temuka.
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Crusaders loose forward Ethan Blackadder will start against the Highlanders in Temuka on Friday.
Its been not too bad. It’s been pretty good learnings for me, eh? You get the first one, then you get one soon after. Its definitely frustrating at times, but its not all doom and gloom, you learn a lot about yourself and how you can get better not training and playing, he said.
One way Blackadder did that was get his teeth into Tasman’s triumphant 2020 NPC campaign in an off-field role.
However, he swiftly quashed the prospect of following in the footsteps of his father, Todd Blackadder, the Crusaders’ head coach between 2009-16.
I just like playing the game, Blackadder said.
You actually get a little insight into coaching and how tough and stressful it can be for them. It was a pretty cool experience. I got given a few roles up there and I got involved and tried to help as much as I could for the team.
Back playing, Blackadder got through last week’s inter-squad match fine, and will play the first half against the Highlanders in his preferred No 6 jersey.
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All Black Cullen Grace won’t play a part in the opening pre-season match for the Crusaders.
With Tom Christie starting at openside flanker, two thirds of the back row could well be the starters come February 26, when the reigning champions kickoff the season proper against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
All Black Cullen Grace wont feature in Temuka, 17km north of his Timaru hometown, but is the Crusaders’ long-term No 8.
It’s good to be back. Couple of injuries last year, it makes it all worth it once you’re back out training with the boys, Blackadder said.
He spared a thought for fellow loose forward Tom Sanders, whose rotten run of injuries continued when he fractured his cheek in the inter-squad match, ruling him out for eight-ten weeks.
Sanders missed the bulk of Canterbury’s NPC campaign last year after taking a head-knock against Wellington last October.
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Josh McKay, L-R, Rene Ranger and Leicester Faingaanuku will all start the Crusaders’ first pre-season match on Friday.
Im gutted for Sandy. He’s had his fair share of injuries, more than a lot of other players. It’s gutting to see him go down like that and hopefully he returns quicker than they’ve [medical staff] said.
While the scoreline will mean zilch on Friday, there are ample of match ups to keep an eye on, including the perfect opportunity for discarded Highlanders fullback Josh McKay to torch his former side.
Not offered a new contract by the Crusaders after last season, new Highlanders No 7 Billy Harmon will also have a point to prove.
There will also be plenty of eyes on former Blues powerhouse centre Rene Ranger donning the Crusaders No 13 jersey in the first half, and wing Leicester Faingaanuku getting a run in the midfield in the second half.
Crusaders v Highlanders
When: Friday, 5.30pm
Where: Temuka Rugby Club
Crusaders (first half): Josh McKay, Chay Fihaki, Rene Ranger, Isaiah Punivai, Leicester Faingaanuku, Fergus Burke, Mitchell Drummond, Whetukamokamo Douglas (c), Tom Christie, Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange, Will Tucker, Michael Alaalatoa, Brodie McAlister, Isileli Tuungafasi.
Crusaders (second half): Chay Fihaki, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Leicester Faingaanuku, Tim OMalley, Tomas Aoake, Brett Cameron, Ere Enari, Brendon OConnor, Sione Havili, Anton Segner, Zach Gallagher, Luke Romano (c), Oliver Jager, Nathan Vella, Tamaiti Williams.
Reserves: Siua Maile, Fletcher Newell, Mahonri Ngakuru, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta
Highlanders (first half): Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngane Punivai, Fetuli Paea, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Folau Fakatava, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Billy Harmon, Hugh Renton, Jack Regan, Josh Dickson, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Highlanders (second half): Connor Garden-Bachop, Freedom Vahaakolo, Michael Collins, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Scott Gregory, Caleb Makene, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Sean Withy, Sione Misiloi, Bryn Evans, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Jermaine Ainsley, Ricky Jackson, Ethan de Groot.