Morgan Piek – When a person thinks of a dream season, one has to look no further than Raymond Rhule of the Toyota Cheetahs. Just last year the nineteen year old from Bloemfontein was still playing his rugby at centre for his high school HTS Louis Botha. A few days ahead of his twentieth birthday he got his Springbok call-up.
In what can only be described as a golden year for the young speedster, Raymond went from playing for the Kovies U20’s to being drawn into the Shimlas Varsity Cup side, Free State Cheetahs Vodacom Cup, South Africa U20, Free State Cheetahs U21, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and finally the Springboks.
Topping the try-scoring list with eight tries during the 2012 Absa Currie Cup and being nominated for the Absa Currie Cup Player of the Year, it’s not hard to see why Raymond Rhule has very quickly become somewhat of a household name in South Africa.
During the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship recently hosted in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, he was somewhat of an unknown player until going over for two sensational tries against the Pumitas of Argentina in the semi-final of the Championship at DHL Newlands. His two ties against the Argentines were instrumental in the South African U20’s reaching the final and eventually winning the tournament.
Even before the tournament, Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron wasn’t too sure about calling him up to South Africa U20 squad ahead of the tournament. Had it not been for the current Toyota Free State Cheetahs U19 coach Andre Tredoux recommending Raymond, he may never have gotten the golden opportunity which he most certainly grabbed with both hands.
Shortly after winning the U20 World Champs, Naka Drotské called him up to the senior Toyota Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup squad. Raymond made an immediate impact in the Currie Cup with a double score in his very first senior game. Overnight rugby supporters in South Africa realised that he is a very special player with the talent to become a Springbok in the same league as Bryan Habana. Ironically, Bryan Habana is the man he is replacing for the Springboks End of Year Tour to Ireland, Scotland and England.
Many have argued that Raymond is too young and inexperienced to play Springbok rugby. It’s a fair enough argument considering he hasn’t played Super Rugby yet. However, pulling him into the national mix is exactly what could make the humble youngster a superstar.
With his blistering pace, deadly sidestep, solid defence and visible commitment and hunger for the game both on and off the pitch, Rhule will without a doubt form part of what looks to be the most exciting backline in next years’ Super Rugby competition. Piet van Zyl, Sarel Pretorius, Johan Goosen, Robert Ebersohn, Johann Sadie, Willie le Roux, Hennie Daniller and Raymond Rhule will be a force to be reckoned with come Super Rugby 2013.
He still has a long and hard road ahead of him in his fledgling career, but with the right guidance and mentoring this young man may very well be compared to the likes of Shane Williams, David Campese, John Kirwan and Bryan Habana.