Everybody loves Raymond Rhule in Cape
Joining the Stormers has offered ousted Springbok wing Raymond Rhule more than an opportunity to play in Super Rugby, but also a chance to rebuild shattered confidence after he was ruthlessly axed at test level last year.
Rhule, 25, endured a torrid night when the Boks slumped to a record 57-0 defeat against the All Blacks in Albany last year.
He personally missed nine tackles and has not added to his seven test caps since.
Accepting that he had a poor game was one thing, but his treatment afterwards was disappointing.
Eyeing a Bok return
Former coach Allister Coetzee was economical with the truth after the Albany debacle when it came to Rhule, claiming the then-Cheetahs wing was still in the Bok frame.
"We forget how good Raymond Rhule was against Australia," Coetzee said when the Boks returned to SA, referencing the previous week's match in Perth."I am not the kind of coach that will just look at one game, one poor performance then I chuck him away," said Coetzee.
Yet that's exactly what Coetzee did. Rhule was never given another chance to rectify his mistakes. But now at the Stormers, the long road back to the green and gold can begin for the Ghanaian-born flyer.
"It's a new year and there are new challenges for me," Rhule said.
"The past is the past, and although you have to learn from it, I have a new mindset by being involved in a new team.
"Being here has already made me a better player and working with Paul Feeney [skills coach] has helped a lot.
"He has given me a lot to work on and to think about. I wouldn't say I took a lot of things for granted, but I overlooked some aspects of my game and I already feel I have improved as a player."
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck believes Rhule was unfairly singled out for that performance against the All Blacks and was also less than impressed with the treatment he received from the Boks subsequently.
"People have bad games but they have to be given a chance to make their way back from those experiences," Fleck said.
"It definitely knocked his confidence as a person and a player. He took a lot of heat in the press and was dropped from the Boks.
"So we've been trying to build him up here. He has been welcomed to the squad and we've focused on getting him fitter and stronger, which has boosted his confidence.Brave player
"I spoke to him about defence and if he feels it's an issue, and if there is something specific he needs to work on because we as coaches don't see an issue at all. That was the end of the defence conversation from our side.
"He's a brave player - an aggressive player - and we have no problem with his perceived defensive weakness. He gets stuck in and we have a system that will hopefully make him feel confident."
Rhule agrees that from what he has seen at the Stormers so far, there is reason for optimism.
"The hard work, focus and attention to detail the Stormers put in on defence is really something to experience," Rhule said.
"If you want to be the best, you have to play with and against the best and I'm at a point in my career where I just want to fight for titles. I want to win Super Rugby."..