Ribbans already showing star quality at Saints
While three successive matces ending in late heartache has sparked a feeling of misery among Saints supporters, there have been some beacons of light amid the gloom.
Some of the rugby the team has played against Leicester, Wasps and Saracens has been superb and there have been plenty of stand-out individual showings.
Courtney Lawes has been a behemoth, Nic Groom has grown into the Saints No.9 shirt and Ahsee Tuala has made the full-back slot his own with an assortment of excellent displays.
But the most surprising shining star has come in the second row, with a 21-year-old really beginning to make a name for himself.
David Ribbans, who arrived at Saints from Western Province in January, was thrust into the spotlight for his Aviva Premiership debut against Wasps a couple of weeks ago.
And how impressive he was, standing out not only because of his 6ft 8in frame, but also because of his ability to show quality and maturity in a big game.
Last Sunday was no different, as Ribbans again belied his inexperience with another assertive showing, against Saracens.
He has been eased into life at Saints, playing a couple of Anglo-Welsh Cup games soon after arriving from South Africa and then impressing in a friendly at Bedford Blues in March, scoring a hat-trick and persuading his coaches to give him a shot in league action.
Two Premiership starts later, and Ribbans is now a name on the lips of Saints fans, who believe their club has unearthed an English-qualified gem.
And the man himself is enjoying every minute of life in Northampton.
“It’s never easy joining halfway through the season, getting used to all the plays and everything, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” Ribbans said.
“The team has just made me feel really at home and I’m loving it.
“As long as I can help the team and keep grinding, I’m happy.
“It’s a tough part of the season, some big games and it’s been great to get an opportunity.
“I’ve taken it with both hands and I’m really enjoying it.
“The Premiership is such a tough league, every game is tough, but I’m loving the opportunity and working every day.”
Ribbans was grateful for the Saints coaches giving him time to bed in before throwing him into big matches.
“It would have been tough to come straight into the Premiership so it was good to get my confidence up and get a bit of game time,” he said.
“It’s not often you can say as a lock you get three tries (in the game at Bedford). Some of them were a bit lucky but it was good to get that boost and I’m taking it on to the field now.”
Ribbans certainly is.
And what has clearly helped him is his upbeat persona.
Even after another gut-wrenching defeat last weekend, Ribbans managed to find a smile for the assembled media.
Young players tend to take defeats hard, but he appears able to bounce back quickly, with his innate positivity there for all to see.
“It’s part of the job - you have to do it,” Ribbans replied, when asked how he would recover from the agonising 27-25 defeat to Saracens, which came thanks to a try two minutes from time.
“We’ve still got something to fight for, that top six spot, so that’s keeping us motivated.
“We really want to finish in the top six, European rugby next year, and it gets us up every week.
“It’s always tough to play these big games, but that’s when you learn the most. Exeter away is another big game, another quality side and we’ve got to get ourselves up for it.
“We’ve had the week off and we’ve really got to work hard and get positive again.
“We’ve got two massive games to fight for the top six.”