Andre Taylor returns to the Hurricanes bench
Andre Taylor was in danger of being added to New Zealand's rugby's "Where are they now" files before getting his name on the Hurricanes' team sheet for tomorrow's match against the Highlanders.
Two years after lighting up Super Rugby with a highlights reel that included 10 eye-popping tries, the Taranaki outside back has found himself on the outer for the opening month of the current season.
And so there was a degree of relief for Taylor yesterday when he finally heard his name called out, albeit in the reserves.
"I've been fully fit for the past four weeks and I'm probably in the best physical shape of my career, so I can't wait," the 26-year-old said.
"I've been stuck in the gym and out on the training pitch getting the extra pre-season in, I guess, and getting my body in shape so when I do come out I'm in good nick."
Taylor hasn't been given any specific reasons for his non-selection this season, but it can be traced back to last season when he lost his tryscoring mojo during a drought that lasted through 10 starts and 14 appearances.
His cause wasn't helped when he was played at centre through Taranaki's national provincial championship campaign, something he acknowledges, but doesn't regret.
"Yeah, I haven't played many games at fullback there. I've been at centre and on the wing and when you aren't playing one position I guess it is quite hard to perform. It didn't help my cause but I had to do what was best for the team and they wanted me at centre."
Taylor is a confidence player – when he's on he can be in a league of his own.
He was looked at closely by the All Blacks selectors at the end of 2012 but missed out on the end-of-year tour squad with Israel Dagg the only specialist fullback picked with Beauden Barrett providing cover.
All Blacks selector Grant Fox said at the time he wanted to see Taylor increase his vision and improve his kicking game, but last year he found himself heavily marked after opposition teams did their homework on his running game.
As the tries dried up, Taylor's confidence waned and with Banks and Marshall providing a second pivot option and Matt Proctor, Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua and Julian Savea crowding the wing, he's at the back of a long queue.
But Taylor, who has 45 Super Rugby caps, impressed during 80 minutes at fullback for the Hurricanes development side against the Crusaders Knights last week and now has his chance to start afresh.
"It's disappointing not to be out there playing, but you have take the positives and that's what I've done. I said to myself 'just train hard and your opportunity will come'.
"There's some good players here in James Marshall and Marty Banks and they're playing well, but you can only go out and do your best to get it [the jersey] back."
The Dominion Post