Remember Sean Maitland? He was the outside back whose form last year positioned him as an outside chance for the All Blacks.

Onlookers rarely got a decent view of his garishly-coloured boots because his feet were never still for long enough. And yet, three games into this season with the Crusaders, his two standout performances of 2011 - scorching the Twickenham turf against the Sharks and four tries in one game against the Brumbies - seem a distant memory.

But fear not, said Maitland, the boots will soon be flashing again. "It has been a slow start for all the boys,'' said the 23-year-old as he considered a one-win, two-loss record for his Super side.

"I'm just struggling to get touches on the ball. I just need to pick up my work rate a bit. Obviously I'm used to getting the ball in space and striding out and hopefully that will start against the Cheetahs on Saturday.''


The Crusaders will be hoping for many things on Saturday, including a return to form for Maitland, a finisher almost without peer in New Zealand when he is on his game.

It will be the first time in almost two years the franchise has played in Christchurch - most of the long-serving players know exactly when it was and the opposition (May 2010, a 40-22 win over the Brumbies) _ and a convincing performance against the perennial battlers from South Africa could be just the catalyst to kickstart their campaign.

It will also go some way to helping build a fortress mentality at home, something that made AMI Stadium such a tough place to visit. That has been watered down by their having to play "home'' matches in Nelson, Timaru, Napier and Wellington, although their thrilling defeat of the Sharks in London, a game in which Maitland scored two tries, was a highlight for both franchise and player.

This season the Crusaders' defeats to the Highlanders and Chiefs have been by slim margins and could easily have been victories but coach Todd Blackadder won't be satisfied at the manner in which they were lost.

In both cases his All Blacks-laden forwards were out-muscled and no team wants a reputation as lacking stomach for a fight.

The worry for Blackadder will be that teams will see a weakness there and continue to exploit it.

That, though, is not likely to be an issue against the Cheetahs, although they did break their six-match losing streak with a 33-26 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne last night, only the second time they have won in Australia.

Although they often trouble the Crusaders at home in Bloemfontein, they have never won in Christchurch.


It could be the perfect stage for the Crusaders to play their high-pressure, fast-paced game which usually suits Maitland so well.

"We owe our supporters and ourselves a performance to be proud of, especially in our first game at our new stadium'' he said.

Maitland, whose father is Scottish, said he had no interest in shifting his allegiance from the All Blacks and had had no contact from Scotland's representatives, despite a recent report linking him with the union.