Raymond Rhule says a conversation with coach Franco Smith helped him rediscover his enjoyment for the game, while precipitating his journey back to the Springboks, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Considering that Rhule only made his Springbok debut this past June, it’s easy to forget that his first exposure to the national set-up came way back in 2012 as a wide-eyed teenager.
At the time, Rhule had shot to stardom after impressing for the Junior Boks and Cheetahs, which earned him a surprise call-up to the Springbok squad for their end-of-year tour in 2012.
Although Rhule never played an on-field role during that tour, the talented youngster looked destined for a lengthy Springbok career after his early exposure to the national environment.
However, the fleet-footed winger – who was born in Ghana – then went through a ‘difficult’ period where he struggled with form and fitness, while he self-admittedly suffered from self-doubt and forgot to simply enjoy the game.
Yet, through determination and hard work, Rhule rediscovered some of his best form during the 2017 Super Rugby season for the Cheetahs, while earning a recall to the Springboks, where he has started all four Tests this year.
After producing a starring performance in this past Saturday’s win over Argentina in Port Elizabeth, Rhule candidly explained how he had managed to work his way back to the top.
‘It wasn’t easy [during that time out of the Springbok set-up], and I found myself in a difficult situation. People expect a lot from you, and I also expected a lot from myself. But the one thing that really made a massive difference was when I told coach Franco that I wanted to become a Springbok again. He asked me what was the difference then [in 2012] compared to what I was doing now, and I told him that I used to enjoy my rugby then.
‘He just said that I needed to find that joy again and to put everything into playing for the benefit of the team, and to not worry about selection. I began to realise the importance of doing the dirty work, and that it wasn’t just about scoring tries. It’s been a tough road, but here I am, and as a player it’s helped me develop a whole lot of other skills that I was perhaps lacking back then.’
Rhule certainly displayed his range of skills this past Saturday, with the winger not only finishing off a well-worked try, but helping create another with a lovely offload in the lead-up to Siya Kolisi’s crucial score.
The 24-year-old said it was an unforgettable moment to score his first try for the Boks.
‘We as the [new] back three kept talking about when one of us was going to score that first try, and so I’m just grateful I could get off the mark,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘What’s just really special is that everyone shares in your joy when you achieve something, and it’s amazing how we’ve become brothers and really care for each other.’
The Boks are now set to travel to Argentina on Wednesday morning, where they will complete their preparations for this Saturday’s Test against the Pumas in Salta.
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