If you were to have a bet on who could become Saints’ player of the season in 2018/19, Cobus Reinach wouldn’t be a bad shout.
Why? Because the South African showed glimpses of brilliance in the black, green and gold last season.
Not only that, those glimpses became more and more frequent as the scrum-half was afforded more responsibility following the departure of his countryman and fellow No.9, Nic Groom, in early April.
Reinach was able to finish the season with a flourish, with his most memorable performance in a Saints shirt to date coming during one of the most memorable wins in recent history.
The 28-year-old was one of the stars of an incredible show as he helped to take Leicester Tigers to task at Welford Road in April.
Saints won 27-21 at the home of their rivals, securing a first victory on Tigers turf since February 2007.
And Reinach had plenty of reasons to be pleased with his own performance as he not only scored, but he also provided an eye-catching assist for Ahsee Tuala’s match-winning try.
It was another example of what Reinach is capable of and Saints supporters will hope there is much more to come under new boss Chris Boyd and attack coach Sam Vesty this season.
“Personally, I set my own goals and we don’t have to get into that, but last year wasn’t good enough and I have to lift it a level,” a determined Reinach said.
“The World Cup is around the corner and for me to even be in the selection, I need to lift my game by a percentage.
“It’s not just an individual thing - the whole team needs to lift its game completely.
“We want to be a whole new team this season.”
Saints will be given a new lease of life by Boyd and Vesty, who have arrived from the Hurricanes and Worcester Warriors respectively.
And Reinach has outlined the impact the duo have already made on the Northampton approach for the new season.
“We’ll now be able to adapt a bit more,” Reinach said.
“We are going to attack a bit more; try a bit more before we kick the ball away.
“There are a lot of things that are hard to explain, but I feel we’re going to take more chances and keep the ball a bit more.
“All of the coaches are excited - they all want to get in and put their blueprint down.
“The boys are keen to get stuck in as well and try to deliver the blueprint to get the shape ready for the first few games.
“Everyone is very excited for the season coming up.”
And on highly-rated Vesty, Reinach said: “He’s been great - I really enjoy working with Sam.
“He’s very technical and we don’t leave a thing until we get it right.
“We work on something, get it right and we move on.
“There’s a lot of video work and we don’t just go out there and see how it goes.
“We actually put people in place and look at where to run, what to do, while working on the little minor skills as well, which add up to make you score a three on two or a two on one.”
Reinach seems to be genuinely relishing the hard work of pre-season, having missed out on preparations last year.
He had been strutting his stuff for the Sharks in Super Rugby, meaning he didn’t arrive at Saints until early September.
And he is now delighted to be able to hit the ground running for the new campaign, having enjoyed the past couple of months in training.
“Last year, I didn’t do a pre-season here so I got here when everyone had already put in graft, sweated and bled together,” Reinach said.
“I feel it’s a big part of getting involved in a team and when you’re new in a team, you want to do a pre-season with them so you pull your weight.
“But slowly but surely I got into it last year.
“I would have liked to get into it a bit quicker, but it happens like that.
“I’m just keen to get going again. I want to play.”
Despite the lack of a pre-season campaign last year, Reinach insists he didn’t find it too tough to adjust to life in England.
“It’s a bit different to what we’re used to down south, but at the end of the day rugby is rugby,” he said.
“You need more points than the other team to win and you just need to figure out how to do it.
“Last year, we weren’t good enough to adapt in a game to get the result.
“I think we have a more open mindset now.
“We needed to change a bit and I think we are.
“There were a lot of high points last season, but it was overshadowed by what wasn’t a great season.
“We need to work on being constantly good and that would be better for me.”
Reinach may have won 10 caps for South Africa and possess plenty of experience, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly striving for improvement.
He did make the odd error in Saints colours last season and he is now working on eradicating those lapses while also improving his lightning speed and ability to change a game out of nowhere.
“For a nine, work-ons are always your basics - your kicking and passing can never be good enough,” Reinach said.
“Boydy came in and he just said ‘make sure your strong points are the strongest in the world’ so I’m trying to focus on my X factor ability and my speed, trying to get quicker, trying to make better decisions of when to go and when not to go.”
Reinach was clearly helped by being given a run of games at the end of last season.
And if the same faith is shown in him this time round, it seems likely that he will star for Saints throughout the forthcoming campaign.
“Any player wants to start consistently - that’s the only way you get better, especially if you’re new in a team,” Reinach said.
“When I started a few games in a row, I really felt like I could open up and the pressure was off.
“I could try something and if it didn’t come off, I would have another opportunity the following week, which I like because I am a bit of a take-a-chance guy on the field.
“You need the backing of a coach to make sure that if you make a mistake, they say ‘you’re going to have another go, don’t worry about it’.”