CAPE TOWN – He has come under severe criticism for his poor defensive ability, and now Raymond Rhule has paid the price.
The 24-year-old Springbok wing has been dropped for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, as he was one of three players released from the national squad to their provinces on Tuesday afternoon.
Rhule is thus eligible to play for the Cheetahs in the PRO14 competition this weekend, where they will come up against Welsh outfit the Ospreys in Bloemfontein on Friday evening (5pm kickoff).
The other two players who won’t feature against Australia are Sharks duo Dan du Preez and Sbu Nkosi.
Loose forward Du Preez and wing Nkosi is likely to turn out for their province in the Currie Cup clash against the Golden Lions at Kings Park in Durban on Friday night (7.15pm kickoff).
Rhule has come under fire after he missed as many as nine tackles in the Boks’ 57-0 humiliation against the All Blacks in Albany on September 16.
The No 14 often chased the kickoff, but was inevitably swatted away, most notably by All Black flank Liam Squire on a few occasions.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, though, backed his man during a press conference in Bloemfontein on Monday, pointing out that Rhule had been “outstanding” in the 23-23 draw against the Wallabies in Perth.
“We forget quickly how good he was against the Aussies, he was outstanding,” Coetzee said.
“I’m not going to chuck a player away after one game... after seven Tests, and then start all over again.
“Part of this team’s make-up is about owning up and taking responsibility, and we’ve all done that. We learn from the past and we help each other improve, and that’s what we’re doing.”
But now Coetzee has opted to “chuck a player away after one game” by dispatching Rhule back to the Cheetahs.
The coach’s hand is somewhat forced. Despite the fact that the Ghanaian-born speedster has improved on attack in every Test he’s played, he has simply allowed too many opponents to go straight past him.
But it wasn’t really necessary to have included Rhule for the home Tests if the intention was to drop him anyway, as releasing him in this manner adds to the humiliation he suffered against the All Blacks.
What is a surprise is the decision to let Nkosi go back to the Sharks. The 21-year-old has been a breath of fresh air in Super Rugby and Currie Cup, and his powerful frame and eye for the tryline could’ve seen him provide the Boks with a unique attacking weapon against the Wallabies.
Those two omissions are likely to result in Western Province star Dillyn Leyds getting a richly-deserved start at right wing, with Courtnall Skosan set to continue on the left, with Andries Coetzee remaining in place at fullback for Saturday’s Test.
Leyds has been dynamic with ball-in-hand for the Stormers and WP this season, but only saw action off the bench during the French series in June.
Bok coach Coetzee will name his match-23 on Thursday at 2pm.