Cult hero Marty Banks searching for Super Rugby return
Banks was a regular in the Highlanders line-up from 2015 to 2017, and helped navigate the southern-most Super Rugby franchise to a first-ever title in his first year with the side. After the 2017 season had come to a close, he headed offshore and linked up with Benetton in Italy before returning in 2019 as a short-term injury replacement for the team.
If all goes to plan in the latter half of 2021, Banks could be back playing Super Rugby full-time next season.
Speaking to Stuff, Banks has revealed that he’s far from done with his professional rugby career and is hopeful that a solid season with the fast-improving Stags could pave the way for a return to the big leagues.
“Personally I’d love to get back to Super Rugby,” he said. “That means I’ve got to play really good rugby, and I’m aware of that.
“I’m 31, and I know in my mind I can compete at that level, but I’ve just got to play some decent footy for the Stags.”
Southland have struggled in recent years, failing to record a single win throughout the 2017 and 2018 Mitre 10 Cup seasons, and notching up just three victories in the two years either side. Last season, however, coach Dale McLeod led the Stags to three victories, and three further games were decided by seven or fewer points.
While injuries and player defections haven’t been kind to Southland in the offseason, McLeod has still managed to lure some talented players to the province for this year’s rebranded NPC, including Banks and former Chiefs Chiefs Solomon Alaimalo, Marty McKenzie and Lisati Milo-Harris.
Banks, who played 40 matches for Tasman before heading offshore, has decided to throw his lot in with the fast-improving Stag instead of opting to return to the province where he first made a name for himself in the hopes that the new environment will provide the 31-year-old with the challenge he needs to reignite his Super Rugby career.
“The fire still burns. The easy option would have been to call Tasman and try to go up there and sit on the bench, or sit in their wider group and do it that way. But as an individual, I want to compete and for me to compete I want to play.
The NPC is kicking off on Friday – the same weekend as the #AllBlacks' first major test of the year.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 6, 2021
“All I said to Dale on the phone is I want the opportunity to try to play my way into a starting spot. I don’t want it handed to me.”
“I think it’s good being under pressure because it doesn’t bring that content ness, each day I’ve got to be prepared to turn up and work and learn and grow in the environment.”
With New Zealand’s five Super Rugby sides already boasting plenty of first five options, such that the likes of Otere Black – who guided the Blues to a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final this year – has had to head offshore.
As such, Banks will have his work cut out for him.
Southland kick off their 2021 campaign on Saturday against neighbours Otago, who were championship semi-finalists last season. They were also, however, one of the three teams that the Stags scored a victory over, with the little brothers of the Highlanders region recording a 32-15 win.
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