Bleyendaal keen to make most of chances

Getty Images     20 Feb 2014     Getty Images

Tyler Bleyendaal is one of those determined to make the most of the opportunity of Carter's absence, and he got off to the best possible start when named in the side's starting XV against the Chiefs on Friday.

The former New Zealand Under-20 captain has been a key performer in the highly-successful Canterbury ITM Cup team which has won the event six times in a row.

He hasn't been involved throughout all that period, but he has in the latter years and in typical Canterbury and Crusaders fashion that grounding has set him up well for higher levels of the game.

But, equally, he is mindful that nothing is guaranteed.

"Yes, it is a good opportunity, but there is still plenty of competition for the job," he said. Team-mates like Colin Slade and Tom Taylor will keep the temperature up each week for the role.

Central to Bleyendaal's advantage is his liaison with the two leading halfbacks in the side Andy Ellis and Willi Heinz, both of whom play inside him for the ITM Cup side.

"They are really good. They are a couple of bloody competitive fellows. They are at each other the whole time. It's great fun," he said.

And outside, another team full of highly-talented potential is set to be let loose on the competition.

Players who have made an impact in the ITM Cup like Johnny McNicholl, Rob Thompson, Rey Lee-Lo, who joins the side from Counties Manukau for the first time after playing for the Hurricanes last year, and North Harbour's Nafi Tuitavake are all in the mix for 2014.

Coming up against the Chiefs, who had ended the Crusaders' title aspirations in the semi-finals in each of the previous two seasons, was not especially daunting as a start-up to the competition, he said.

Most weeks would involve tough matches and while the Chiefs would be a big challenge, and one the Crusaders were looking forward to, it was just the start of a long campaign, he said.

Having been injury-free for much of last year, Bleyendaal has been able to build up well for the season and his on-going goal would be to secure the starting spot at first five-eighths.

His goal-kicking will be another important aspect of his play and he said it was going well. He tended to work with Slade and Taylor at practices in his kicking and they were a ready source of advice when it came to technical aspects of the craft.

But there were also times when he did work on his own in his free time, working on a variety of kicks, not only goal-kicking.

In his third season now with the Crusaders, Bleyendaal has made 16 appearances and has 107 points already. Chances are by the end of the 2014 campaign, those figures will be significantly advanced.