Marty Banks rides the Highlanders' wave

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Thursday, June 11, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Banks, the ace in Tasman's rise through the ITM Cup ranks, in the past two years, still regarded himself as more of a fullback than a first five-eighths.

That was largely due to the fact that as a Christchurch Boys' High School player in Canterbury rugby his hopes of playing first five-eighths were blocked by a team-mate named Tyler Bleyendaal. So fullback it was until Tasman coach Kieran Keane decided he needed him at first five-eighths.

Initially selected for Investec Super Rugby by the Hurricanes, Banks has spent his second season in Dunedin.

"I knew coming down here what the situation was. And Sops [Sopoaga] has had an unreal season and is competing for higher honours," he said.

With players from 13 different provinces in the mix, and only a few 'name' players compared to other franchises, the Highlanders had become a tight knit group who had grown together.

"But the opportunity has given me more belief in myself at 10 and I feel now that it is my position," he said.

Banks acknowledged that Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown had been a factor in that and he enjoyed picking ideas off him.

"I realised that I don't have the X factor like other fullbacks and I looked at what in my own game suited me at first five-eighths.

"We have fast outside backs, both in the Highlanders and in Tasman, and it is a case of flicking the ball on to them and 10 seemed to fit. It's easy to enjoy 10 on the back of a good forward pack and both teams have provided that," he said.

Banks has committed to the Highlanders next year and to the next Tasman ITM Cup campaign but has not looked beyond that.

"There are so many young first fives coming through it is hard to get a look in, but I do enjoy playing in both Tasman and the Highlanders.

"I'm a late bloomer and have been on the back foot, but I have learnt a lot in the last two years.

"I'm up against guys who have come through the influence of academy systems. So I have been on fast forward to learn as much as I can," he said.

Along the way he has been able to share in one of the more stimulating campaigns with the Highlanders looking to secure a first home play-off game in a long time.

That means not being tripped at the Blues hurdle at Eden Park on Friday night.

"We can't read too much into the Blues. Every team knows them and that they are at their most dangerous in these circumstances. It will be a tough day at the office.

"We do have a chance for a home play-off game but it is not a given as there are a lot of possibilities that could happen. But if we could get the game there would be a massive buzz in this part of the country and another chance to play at the glasshouse under the roof," he said.