CHEETAHS wing Raymond Rhule has had an early taste of the national set-up after the Springboks’ three-week UK tour but he has set his sights on a steady progression through the structures rather than a fairytale leap into the Bok team.
An exciting season for the 20-year-old started as an average one in the Vodacom Cup team. Then he had a drastic change of fortunes as he received a late call-up to South Africa’s under-20 team for the Junior World Championships before establishing himself as one of the key players in the Cheetahs Currie Cup team in his rookie season.
But even this meteoric rise in his career did not prepare him for the call-up to tour with the national team last month.
"The call-up from Heyneke was a huge surprise," Rhule says. "I was aware of the rumours that I could be called up to the national team, but there was nothing concrete to convince me that it could happen.
"It was amazing to be part of the set-up and to experience the vibe and culture in the team. It was also an eye-opener to see the level of professionalism at which the team operates. It has definitely boosted my desire to feature in the team."
Nonetheless, Rhule refuses to get ahead of himself and says his main goal in the next few months will be to feature regularly in the Cheetahs Super Rugby team. If that goes well, he would like to compete for a place in the national squad for the Rugby Championship.
"This year has been everything I imagined and more," says Rhule. "Apart from the invaluable experience I gained, the exposure to top competition offered me an opportunity to show my coaches what I am capable of and it allowed us to develop a level of trust.
"Looking ahead at next year, however, my goals are to secure a place in the Cheetahs Super Rugby starting team and to play my way into contention for a Springbok place."
Off the field, Rhule is committed to studying law part-time, but he acknowledges it will be challenging, as he will have to balance his studies with training and touring.