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Banks plays down influence at Highlanders

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

First five-eighth Marty Banks is playing down his importance at the Highlanders despite a midas touch since taking the reins from Lima Sopoaga.

Banks will start a fifth successive game when the in-form New Zealand outfit face the struggling Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (NZT).

The Highlanders are unbeaten in that period, with Banks facilitating some bright attacking performances, allied with a remarkably accurate goalkicking record.

At one point the 27-year-old had slotted 29 successive shots at goal, the longest streak by anyone for the last decade in Super Rugby.

The radar was askew in last week's 57-14 crushing of the Stormers in Dunedin but Banks was again astute in general play, highlighting the Tasman playmaker's value since joining the squad as injury cover for Hayden Parker during the pre-season.

"I've probably played more minutes in the last few weeks than I have in the last three years," Banks said.

"You could look at the kicking stats and say I'm playing well but I'm probably not doing that much. I'm just trying to direct the boys around the field and do my basic role. I'm pretty happy with where I am."

Banks, who leaves for Italian club Treviso at the end of the season, is set to continue at No.10 for at least two more games.

All Black Sopoaga is still struggling with a hamstring injury acquired in week three and will definitely miss next week's clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.

A return for their subsequent clash with the Force in Perth is a possibility.

Coach Tony Brown won't let his mind drift beyond the Cheetahs, who have lost their last six straight games but who represent danger with their attacking mindset.

"They're a pretty expansive team. They give it a bit of air and try to attack from everywhere," Brown said.

"Defensively we have to be good. Hopefully we can create opportunities from that."

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