Bring on the pressure, says confident Raymond Rhule
Raymond Rhule’s selection ahead of the Lions’ cannon-booted right-wing Ruan Combrinck has been contentious, especially with the starring role the latter played in getting the Lions to the Super Rugby final.
Combrinck made an instant impact after recovering from injury but Rhule has shown the benefits of playing in a better and more confident team.
At the Cheetahs, Rhule looked bereft of confidence and that showed in his defence.
As a collective, the Cheetahs went on holiday when tackling, which partly explained the hidings they copped against New Zealand Super Rugby outfits. Rhule could be seen as a weak link with Lions wing Courtnall Skosan but the All Blacks back three, despite their counterattacking excellence, are no great shakes in defence either.
The back three are also inexperienced with none of the players possessing more than 10 Test caps, something Rhule believes levels the playing field in a big way.
"I feel both back threes have played quite a lot of rugby. With this being Test rugby, the pressures are higher," Rhule said.
"I’m a player that thrives under pressure. I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy the pressure more when the game becomes a dogfight.
"Digging deep makes me enjoy the game even more than winning by 50. When you see a tough encounter like this coming ahead, I enjoy such situations," the winger said.
Rieko Ioane has set the rugby scene alight with his seamless replacement of Julian Savea.
Savea’s absence along with that of Vaea Fifita would come as a relief to those who do not have faith in Rhule’s defensive capabilities.
Rhule has a huge amount of respect for his fast opponents in what will be a battle of out-and-out pace merchants.
"You try not to underestimate the opposition and people will want to target Damian McKenzie saying that he’s not good under the high ball or whatever they could say because he’s a bit smaller. From what I’ve seen, he always rises to the occasion. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by underestimating him," Rhule said.
"If you want to be the best, you have to play against the best. I would have loved for Vaea to play," he added.