Bloemfontein - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has explained the axing of Raymond Rhule from the squad for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against Australia, saying he has not discarded the under-fire wing.
The 24-year-old Cheetahs star was released from the squad on Tuesday and will play in the PRO14 against Ospreys in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Rhule, who has started every game this year for the Boks in the No 14 jersey, will be replaced by Dillyn Leyds in Bloemfontein.
Rhule missed nine tackles in a 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany two weekends ago in a poor defensive showing and was widely tipped to be axed for this weekend's game.
But then, on Tuesday, Coetzee came out strongly in defence of Rhule, saying that he was not the type of coach to ditch a player after a single bad game.
"Don’t forget how good Raymond was against Australia. I’m not a coach who will look at one poor performance and chuck someone away. He was outstanding against the Wallabies," Coetzee said at the time.
That led to speculation that Coetzee would keep faith in the under-fire player, but just 24 hours later he was released alongside Sharks wing Sibusiso Nkosi and loose forward Dan du Preez.
On Thursday, after announcing his side for what is a must-win clash against the Wallabies, Coetzee explained his thinking in releasing Rhule.
"I'm very happy with Raymond Rhule and I haven't discarded him," Coetzee emphasised in Bloemfontein on Thursday.
"There are certain boxes that Raymond does tick as a winger. His kick-chase is good, his cross-cover is good ... but the reality is he has to work on his defence and that's no secret.
"With the process that I'm following, it is time that I have a look at Dillyn Leyds and see what he can do this weekend."
Coetzee confirmed that Rhule would be joining the Bok squad in Cape Town on Sunday, emphasising that he was "not chucking him away".
"Why in South Africa when we try to build depth, we're chucking guys away, but when the All Blacks do it we say they are clever?" Coetzee posed.
"We are trying to build depth. I'm looking at wingers that we have in the country ... Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule and Sbu Nkosi. When do I give them an opportunity if I don't do it now?"
The coach has sent Rhule to the Cheetahs with aspects on his game that he knows he has to work on.
"We sent him there to work on tracking, his body height ... he has certain things that he needs to work on. This is a process that we're busy with."
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Francois Louw, 6, Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende
15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes (from): 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Ned Hanigan, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Samu Kerevi, 24 Henry Speight