Warren Whiteley says he is extremely grateful to have concluded a contract extension with the Lions for another year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the past 12 months, Whiteley has struggled with separate groin and knee injuries that have required extensive rehabilitation, while curtailing his involvement with both the Boks and Lions.
Whiteley has again been sidelined for a large part of this year, but recently completed a welcome return to action, with the influential No 8 having made a noticeable impact in terms of strengthening the ‘spine’ of a settled Lions pack.
When speaking to media in Johannesburg ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against the Waratahs, Whiteley repeatedly highlighted just how ‘grateful’ he was to be back in action after his recent injury battles.
‘In this game, you just never know what can happen. We saw how [former Bok and Lions prop] Julian [Redelinghuys] broke his neck two years ago and can’t play anymore. Jaco [Kriel] was also very close to having a career-ending injury, he’s had to undergo two shoulder operations.
‘So you have to just be grateful for every opportunity, especially now with a semi-final that doesn’t always come around that often. It’s a great chance for us as a team to hopefully get a good crowd here [at Ellis Park] and to try [to] inspire people. We know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m very excited for this weekend.’
Last year, there were some whispers that Whiteley might be considering a move overseas to link up with former Lions coach Johan Ackermann at Gloucester.
However, he remains very much part of the Boks’ long-term plans, while he’s set to continue his domestic involvement with the Lions for at least another Super Rugby season.
‘It took some time, but we’ve sorted it [the contract] out, and I’ve signed to the end of the 2019 World Cup,’ Whiteley commented. ‘I’m very grateful. For myself, my family and my kids, we really enjoy it here.’
After this season, the Lions will bid farewell to some players, with Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert and Rohan Janse van Rensburg set to head abroad.
Fullback Andries Coetzee was expected to be part of that departing group after reported interest from a couple of overseas clubs, but he also confirmed this week that he had rather opted to remain in Johannesburg.
‘It was an important decision I had to make, but I feel it’s the correct one. By staying, hopefully., I can give myself the best chance to be in the World Cup squad next year. I feel at ease now that I’ve signed again with the Lions.’
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images