James O'Connor says a candid, no-holds-barred conversation with Ewen McKenzie has put him on the path to rugby redemption, with the Wallaby winger admitting he has struggled with life in the spotlight.
The 23-year-old believes it will be actions, rather than words, that eventually help him win back the respect of the Australian rugby community after a long list of indiscretions, topped off by his dumping from Super Rugby side Melbourne.
But a typically forthright discussion with McKenzie will be the keystone of any significant and lasting attitude adjustment, with O'Connor saying he remains thankful to the new Wallaby coach for laying it on the table in his first days in charge.
O'Connor said he didn't know what to expect in his first one-on-one chat with McKenzie, particularly with team discipline one of the most-pressing topics for the new gaffer.
If there was any cause for nerves, McKenzie put him to rest with the kind of upfront, no-nonsense discussion that made him such a favourite among players during his four years in charge of the Queensland Reds.
"I just went in with an open mind and I was ready for any situation. That's what he did as well. He put faith in me. I don't want to say exactly what he said, because that's between us, but he showed faith in me and said 'produce what you do best and we'll go from there'," O'Connor said.
"You're in the spotlight all the time and you have to be aware of that. It becomes part of the job. In the past, I haven't dealt with that as well as I should have.
"Communicaton is a massive key, I guess. Straight away from our first meeting until now, he's been very open and upfront and it's working well. He's been very upfront with me from the very beginning, from our first conversation after the Lions.
"I'm looking forward to many more years hopefully."
Talk remains cheap in the eyes of many observers and even team-mates, which is why O'Connor has become determined to gradually right the wrongs of the past as he finds his feet on the Wallaby wing.
"The situation where I was at, words weren't enough. It was actions. I'm trying to do the little things right and move forward. But it's a long process and a mindset shift. It's not a big one but little things get blown out easily," he said.
O'Connor didn't ask to be the Wallaby 10 against the British and Irish Lions but relished the challenge when thrown the jumper by former coach Robbie Deans. The experiment produced lukewarm results, even if O'Connor showed improvement with each outing.
But after some early defensive wobbles in his move back to the wing, O'Connor is starting to have fun on the field once again. His running game and sparkling feet have long been his best asset and he is hoping to use his skills to full effect against the Boks.
"I play better when I'm having fun and if I'm not having fun, what's the point? I'm in a very priveleged position to play rugby for a living and I dreamed of doing this since I was six years old," O'Connor said.
"You don't lose it but in certain games, you aren't having as much fun as others, that's for sure. I enjoy being around people and I thrive off other guys' energy.
"I grew up playing rugby because I love to run. It's refreshing to know where you are going to be playing so you can really provide the best service for the boys and for Australia."
The pressure to win is becoming oppressive for the Wallabies, who have saluted just once in their past five Tests, while McKenzie will be keen to notch up a quick single to get off the mark at Suncorp Stadium.
But the feeling among Wallaby players remains positive, even if the results are yet to come. The fact senior players are finding a way to mend bridges with players like O'Connor and Quade Cooper have only helped the overall mood.
O'Connor's mindset will be helped even further when he manages to lock down a Super Rugby club for next season. He insists he is staying in Australia, wants to remain a Wallaby and a deal with the ARU is around the corner.
"All of my contracts have been a little bit drawn out. I trust the people around me. We had a good chat last week and things are progressing really well with the Australian Rugby Union. I hope it's close," O'Connor said.