Cobus Reinach has demonstrated how a carefully considered and well-timed move abroad can prove to be immensely beneficial, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
There are many times I have chatted to Reinach since he made the move to the Northampton Saints in 2017.
In particular, one of his comments still resonates clearly. When asked whether Northampton’s willingness to allow him to remain available to the Springboks was one of the factors in his decision-making to join the club, he corrected me to say it was in fact the ‘only factor’.
Of course, in certain Test windows, the Boks have full rights to call up overseas-based players, but Regulation 9 (stating that players must be released by their clubs for international duty) has not always been rigorously enforced in the past.
Then there are also some overseas clubs who are known to be inclined towards trying to hold on to their prized marquee signings rather than welcome their release.
At Northampton, though, the club has celebrated the national ambitions of their players, and this was a key factor – correction, the ‘only’ factor – that Reinach remained unequivocally emphatic about before opting to leave the Sharks for a stint overseas.
When the talented scrumhalf did leave South Africa, he had endured the disappointment of just missing out on the 2015 World Cup, as well as a frustrating injury setback just as he sought to find some real rhythm and consistency to his play.
And while many supporters often lament the decisions of players to head overseas, context is key.
Reinach identified the correct club for him to make a fresh start, to develop his game in challenging conditions, and all the while remaining steadfast in his ambitions to become the best possible No 9 and to earn a Bok recall.
Over his three years with Northampton, Reinach duly established himself as one of the most dangerous and highly regarded players in the Premiership.
Earlier this week, the 30-year-old bid farewell to the club, leaving behind a set of records that won’t be quickly forgotten.
Since joining the Saints, Reinach has scored more tries, beaten more defenders and made more clean breaks and run metres than any other scrumhalf in Premiership rugby.
Those are some serious numbers, with Reinach becoming something of a cult hero at Franklin’s Gardens as a result of his regular length-of-field tries and try-saving tackles.
Indeed, the past 12 months have represented a remarkable period in Reinach’s career. Besides walking away with a host of awards after a standout 2018-19 season for English club the Northampton Saints, he then received a long-awaited recall to the Springboks, scoring a memorable try in his comeback game against Australia.
What followed was his dream inclusion in the squad that travelled to Japan and a record fastest-ever World Cup hat-trick against Canada – all culminating in the Boks lifting the Webb Ellis trophy.
It remains to be seen where Reinach will head next, but what he has demonstrated so effectively is just how beneficial a move to the right place at the right time can be.