Jim Mallinder admits Samu Manoa is one of the best signings he’s made for Saints.
America international Manoa was an unknown package when he switched to Franklin’s Gardens from San Francisco Golden Gate, where he played for seven years, last summer.
But he quickly established himself in the Saints side, smashing opponents into submission in each of the 18 league games he played, and he was named in ESPN’s 2011/12 Premiership dream team.
His first campaign at the club was curtailed by injury, but the 27-year-old has come back with renewed vigour this time round.
He has excelled in competitive action, coming close to claiming all three man-of-the-match awards so far, eventually being handed the accolade in win at Bath last Friday night.
Whereas two years ago, many English rugby fans wouldn’t have heard of Manoa, now most know him as one of the top-flight’s most effective human wrecking balls.
And Mallinder, who has made a number of shrewd signings in his five-year tenure at Saints, is revelling in the performances of his concrete layer turned second-row star.
When asked if Manoa is one of this best acquisitions for the club, the Saints boss replied: “Yes. He’s come in and you see potential but you’re never quite sure how well these players will go.
“What he is doing is he’s backing his performances up week after week. He was getting used to the systems last year, he was getting used to the systems as well, which didn’t help his progress, but this time he’s had a great pre-season, fitted in really well and we’re delighted with the way he’s progressing.”
So has even Mallinder been surprised with how well Manoa has adapted to life in the English game?
“He’s not surprised me the way with the way he’s playing because we saw that potential in him, but (he has with) the way he’s got up to speed and showing now week in, week out,” said the director of rugby.
“We know he’s a dynamic runner with the ball and he can really smash people in the tackle, which he loves doing, but he’s also picking up the technical side of the game as well and his work with Dorian West is really paying off, in terms of his tight play.”