‘We have to shut down Whiteley’

Ireland aim to neutralise the Warren Whiteley threat by limiting the Springbok No 8’s attacking space, reports JON CARDINELLI in Port Elizabeth.

Earlier this week, Ireland assistant coach Greg Feek said that the Boks will miss Duane Vermeulen in the third and decisive Test of the series at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Vermeulen has been ruled out of the clash due to an elbow injury.

Feek pointed out that Vermeulen is one of the most powerful loose forwards in the game, and that he often provides the Boks with the means to win the gainline battle. Almost in the same breath, Feek admitted that Whiteley, the Boks’ second-choice No 8, would add something new to the back-row dynamic.

The point was reiterated by Ireland openside flank Jordi Murphy at the team’s base in Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Unsurprisingly, coach Joe Schmidt has opted to reunite the tourists’ best available loose-trio combination of CJ Stander, Murphy and Jamie Heaslip for the decisive match of the series. Murphy said that Ireland are expecting something different from their back-row counterparts in the coming match, and that the likes of Whiteley and Jaco Kriel are better known for their athleticism and handling skills.

Whiteley will win his first Test start this Saturday. According to Murphy, the Bok No 8 will demand special attention from the outset.

‘He made a great impact when he came on at Ellis Park last week. He brings a lot of dynamism to that role,’ said Murphy.

‘We will have to keep a close eye on him this Saturday. We can’t afford to give him any space to run. He really hurt us with his running game last week.

‘We are also well aware of what Jaco Kriel can do,’ Murphy added. ‘He’s another dynamic player who’s had a great Super Rugby season for the Lions. No doubt he will be raring to go in what will be his first Test.’

Whiteley was introduced after 40 minutes at Ellis Park last week. According to SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, he made a significant impact for the Boks during the second half. Apart from scoring an important try in the 63rd minute, Whiteley made 50m and beat two defenders.

Kriel's attacking stats in the 2016 Super Rugby competition make for encouraging reading. Kriel is ranked fifth for defenders beaten (36) and 12th for clean breaks (11).

Photo: BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli