From regular rotation to World Cup winner - Reinach reflects on his Saints story

Prior to Cobus Reinach’s arrival at Saints in the summer of 2017, supporters had their appetites whetted by YouTube clips.

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 11:53 am
Cobus Reinach
Cobus Reinach

As is now routine, fans flock to the internet to see what their new signing has to offer.

And in Reinach’s case, there were plenty of eye-catching moments as his sizzling speed captured the attention.

But a few months into his career at Saints, who he had joined from Super Rugby side the Sharks, some were struggling to see what the fuss was all about.

Reinach was forced to share the No.9 shirt with fellow South African Nic Groom as Saints stuttered.

It was turning into a horror show for everyone at Franklin’s Gardens when long-serving boss Jim Mallinder departed in December 2017.

And the rest of the season was spent recovering, rebuilding and trying to lay a platform for Chris Boyd’s arrival during the summer of 2018.

Groom left Saints in April 2018, giving Reinach a vital few weeks to finally make the scrum-half spot his own.

Reinach was joint top scorer in the Premiership last season, alongside Sale wing Denny Solomona

And he did just that, turning glimpses of class into more regular displays of his obvious ability.

He starred in a win at Welford Road, Saints’ first at Leicester Tigers since 2007.

And he has not looked back since.

Reinach has gone from strength to strength under Kiwi boss Boyd, scooping the players’ and supporters’ player of the year prizes last season, scoring 17 tries in just 30 games.

Reinach celebrated a Premiership Rugby Cup triumph last season

He picked up where he left off this time round, once again grabbing incredible long-range scores and making some stunning try-saving tackles.

And that has earned him a big money move when his Saints contract ends in June.

Whether he plays again in the black, green and gold now remains to be seen thanks to the uncertainty provided by the Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe.

But if the win at Worcester last month is to be Reinach’s last display in Saints colours, he will have plenty of fond memories to look back on when he packs his suitcase and departs for pastures new.

Reinach scored the fastest hat-trick in World Cup history in a pool match against Canada

“My highlights are probably based around the speed game and crucial moments,” Reinach said. “Quite a few nice try-saving tackles and also the intercepts from last year.

“For us as a team, my highlights have been getting into quarter-finals where people never thought we’d make it.

“This year we were top two for a long time and we can still get back there if the virus goes away.”

Looking back on a tumultuous first year at Franklin’s Gardens, which seems a very distant memory now, Reinach said: “The first year was a little bit difficult.

“We had to move over from South Africa and settle in. It sounds easy but it is quite a big thing.

“I was part of a new team and a few months in, our coach, Jim, was going.

“From there, the whole season was just a little bit shaky for the Saints until Boydy came in the next summer and steadied the boat.

“The first season was difficult, a lot of frustrating nights with a glass of wine, but we got through it.

“It’s a big part of me as a player because frustrating years and difficult times make you work harder and make you realise again what you want and makes you fight for it.

“It was a year that didn’t go as planned but it made me work for what I wanted to get.”

So how much did Groom’s late-season departure help Reinach? And was the extra responsibility the key to bringing the best out of him?

“It (being first-choice scrum-half) was the talk from the beginning for me to come over here,” he said. “Then Jim left and situations changed.

“You always want to be number one where you play and number one in the world in your position.

“It’s my driving point and even if I don’t hit it, it’s still going to make me a better player.

“I wasn’t the starting nine all of the games and it makes you a better player, even if my goal was to start all of them.”

Boyd has given the whole Saints squad belief, steering them to Premiership Rugby Cup glory last season as well as a Premiership play-off semi-final and a Challenge Cup quarter-final.

They are in the top four again this season and in the Champions Cup last eight.

And Reinach believes he has improved hugely thanks to the current boss.

He said: “My tactical game improved quite a bit and just having confidence in my own ability to have a go.

“A lot of that is down to Boydy giving us confidence to perform our circus act and do the thing on the field that makes you a special player.

“Boydy put a lot of confidence in the boys to try something, make the game your own and have a go.

“That part of my game stepped up and also my tactical ability.

“You always have to be tactical here - it’s not like Super Rugby where it’s a quick game and someone’s going to do something.

“The weather changes quite a bit throughout the year here.”

While we have come to expect eye-catching intercept scores from Reinach, it’s his try-saving tackles that have hogged the headlines this season.

He made sensational last-ditch stops in games against London Irish and Worcester in 2020.

And he said: “I’m not the biggest guy but I like the physicalty of the game and getting stuck in.

“It’s not always the most physical tackle tackling from behind and trying to make a try-saving tackle but I’m always eager to step into the front line and put a shot on.

“It doesn’t always work but it does give me a lot of joy to do it.”

What has also given Reinach a lot of joy is Saints’ recent displays at Welford Road.

They have really had the edge over local rivals Leicester in recent times, including that memorable win in April 2018.

And Reinach said: “It was more special for the boys who knew about that history and how long it was since we beat them there.

“I don’t think I’ve lost against Leicester there and it’s just a nice game to go and play at the moment.

“We’re lucky enough to be on the winning end.”

Reinach was also on the winning end at the World Cup, scoring the fastest hat-trick in tournament history in a game against Canada as South Africa marched to global glory.

And the 30-year-old said: “To be part of the World Cup was a dream come true and then getting the opportunity to play and scoring a hat-trick, I don’t think you can ask for a better outing.

“The whole squad enjoyed the whole campaign and we walked away with a medal so there was nothing to complain about there.

“I’m going to take the medal into the Gardens one day if we get back together just to show them (the England players).”

Reinach’s speed game has become a feature for Saints in the past couple of years and they will dearly miss it when he departs.

But just how much work does it take to be that lightning quick?

“I’ve got quick genes in my family because my father was very quick,” Reinach said.

“It is something you need to constantly work on - every week I try to run a quicker time than normal.

“We have time gates and the stadium where you time yourself.

“It is a lot of pressure to get quicker and it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely something worth doing.”

It definitely is.

And Saints supporters have so many special moments to reflect on because of it.

When asked for his final message to the fans, Reinach was reluctant to say goodbye just yet, still desperately hoping he will be able to play for the club again before June.

He said: “I don’t want to give a message now because I don’t think the season is over. That would be switching off before the season ends.

“But the supporters know they are deep in my heart and my family’s heart and they make the Gardens what it is.

“They are the heart of the Gardens.”