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Pryor relishes chance to step up

Loose forward Dan Pryor acknowledges his career has been on something of a rollercoaster ride for three or four seasons but he's relishing the chance the Highlanders have provided him with in 2015.

Having spent time with Auckland and Northland in the ITM Cup, and having been an Investec Super Rugby wider training group player with a solitary appearance for the Blues, it seemed the opportunity might have passed the 26-year-old by.

He had never given up hope and while he admitted his planning tended to be on a day-by-day basis, the desire to travel may have proved more appealing had not Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph given him the phone call midway through the ITM Cup last year.

No-one is more aware than Pryor that it is opportunity that has knocked and nothing more. Plenty of hard work in the squad atmosphere will be required as he firstly aims to make the playing 22 and then one day to achieve a starting role. He will come off the bench for the Highlanders in their warm-up game against the Brumbies on Saturday.

Given the fact that Highlanders diehards Shane Christie and John Hardie are still in the mix in the south, it is all about being ready to take the chance when it comes.

Pryor said he wasn't concerned so much about the competition for places in the Highlanders line-up.

"You do aim to have some game time, but I am more interested in learning from the other loose forwards and picking up little habits from them and marking down more details of what is required," he said.

"It is all about being prepared and one of the things I have noticed is that a lot more video watching is required at this level."

A player who was regarded as being on the light side for a loose forward, Pryor says he has put on 'four or five' kgs during the off-season and without affecting his basic speed, perhaps his best asset.

The adaption to the far south has not been too difficult so far, one of the best summers in recent memory has meant the call of the north has not been too bad and while it means he is away from his favoured fishing grounds in the north, where the Kingfish abound, he is hopeful that he will have time to assess the Blue Cod in the south when the opportunity presents itself.

Making the adjustment to Super Rugby preparation meant living in a mate's garage for a few weeks until he could find an apartment in Dunedin and with that achieved he has been getting used to conditioning work over longer periods.

"We did a lot of running and training during December but I feel good from that and I am finding the whole approach more exciting," he said.

Adding to his recent rugby experience and heightening his desire to be involved was his selection for the Maori All Blacks team on their Asian tour at the end of the year, a tour in which Pryor scored the match-winning try against Japan.

"They are an unreal team [the Maori], nothing like I've ever been involved with before. They have a real culture that hits you as soon as you join them - it is awesome.

"While it was good to get my name out there, the biggest thing about it was just being part of the whole set-up," he said.

Anxiously watching his progress will be friends and family in the north. He said one of the first questions he was asked when it was announced he was in the Highlanders squad was whether he would be coming back north for the ITM Cup, something he was quick to confirm.

The call-up by the Highlanders has rejuvenated Pryor's career, watching him try to make the most of it will be another factor in his rugby development, and something which could be of significant benefit to himself, and also those teams he is associated with in the future.