Gareth Duncan - MyPlayers.co.za
Bloemfontein - Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule says he’s in a good space on and off the rugby field.
Rhule shot to stardom in South African rugby in 2012 after showcasing his talent for the Junior Springboks and the Cheetahs.
He then received a surprise Springbok call-up for the national team’s end-of-year tour to Europe.
However, the HTS Louis Botha old boy struggled to replicate this success thereafter, experiencing a run of inconsistent form and injuries as he missed out on Springbok selection.
This season, he’s managed to put these troubles behind him as he emerged as one of the in-form South African wings in Super Rugby, which earned him call-ups to the both Springboks training camps in Johannesburg and Stellenbosch.
“It was really something special to return to the national set-up. I’ve been out of it for a while and I really missed being a part of the Springbok environment. It’s a team of great professionals, who offer so much value to your development as a professional player,” Rhule told MyPlayers.
“I lost a lot of pride being left out. Falling out of favour can really knock you down in terms of confidence. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself. Players are often advised on where to improve in terms of individual and collective objectives, and I placed too much focus on that and forgot to enjoy the game.
“This season, I returned back to basics and played the game I play best. This allowed me to fall in love with rugby again. When I started enjoying my game, that’s when I brought the best out of myself.”
Rhule added that his introduction to fatherhood has also helped him with his mature outlook on life.
“My son has changed my life in so many ways. I have a bigger sense of responsibility as I have to provide for him. I have to show him the way as he grows up. I need to ensure he has a great future. I’m loving fatherhood so far and I’m really excited about the journey ahead with him,” he said.
While Rhule has excelled on the field, the Cheetahs have struggled to build on the form they showcased during their Currie Cup-winning campaign last year. The men from Bloemfontein have only won two of their six fixtures this season as they prepare to face the Chiefs this weekend.
However, Rhule is confident the team will improve as they’re working hard behind the scenes.
“There’s still a positive vibe among the guys. Yes, it’s been difficult in terms of results, but we are to blame for our losses. We’ve worked our way into the lead in a few of those games and then let the result slip at important moments of the match. We know we need to keep focused and work harder,” explained Rhule.
“We’re expecting the Chiefs to throw the kitchen sink at us this weekend. They’re a great side with world-class players. If we can create more opportunities and finish them, we can get the desired result.”
Meanwhile, there have been shadowing rumours around the Cheetahs’ future in Super Rugby as SARU is set to cut two of the six competing South African franchises. Media reports suggest the Southern Kings and Cheetahs will lose its Super Rugby status for the foreseeable future.
Rhule stressed that the players are focused on the job at hand.
“Obviously it’s difficult seeing the reports and not knowing what the outcome will be. But as players, we have a job to do on the field and that’s what we’re focused on. We need to trust the professionals in the office, who will represent the union during the upcoming proceedings,” said Rhule.
“We really appreciate the fans who have come out and supported the Cheetahs during this difficult time… it was heart-warming to hear they even started a petition to fight for our Super Rugby status. The Cheetahs have won the hearts of many rugby fans during Super Rugby over the years.”
Saturday’s clash in Bloemfontein is scheduled for 15:05.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Junior Pokomela/Luther Obi, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Taleni Seu, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson
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