‘I must play my natural game’

Warren Whiteley says he is a different player to Duane Vermeulen and will just focus on playing his natural game against the World XV on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Vermeulen, the incumbent Bok No 8, is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup later this year as the result of a neck injury, with the Stormers captain having undergone surgery on Wednesday.

His absence has provided an opportunity for Whiteley to establish himself in his preferred position at eighthman.

‘It’s a massive honour to receive this opportunity to start at No 8, my two previous Test appearances were at blindside flank,’ Whiteley commented. ‘I’m just excited to be part of the group again. I’m learning every day.’

The 27-year-old said he knew he had a big job to do as the replacement for Vermeulen, who was last year’s SA Player of the Year.

‘It’s difficult to compare Duane and I, we’re two very different players. I can’t try and fill his boots, a world-class player like that is irreplaceable. So I must just play my natural game and contribute on the field in whatever way I can. That’s what’s most important.’

After a standout Vodacom Super Rugby season for the Lions, Whiteley provided insight into the areas of his game that he believed could be an asset to the Boks.

‘My strengths are probably my work-rate, whether it be on attack or defence. On attack I probably try and link a lot more between backs and forwards, perhaps a bit more on the outside channels. I pride myself on my work-rate, and I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of seasons with the Boks. This is now another great opportunity.’

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis