Having put the disappointment of not making the Bok World Cup squad behind him, Golden Lions No 8 Warren Whiteley says he is finally feeling like his old self again, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Joburg.
Whiteley started for the Boks against the World XV earlier this year, and featured off the bench against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but suffered an unfortunate rib cartilage injury in that match and was unable to stake a further claim for World Cup selection.
A calf strain suffered in training then curtailed his initial Currie Cup involvement upon his return to the Lions, but he’s recently begun to build his way back to some form at the business end of the domestic competition.
‘It was difficult in the beginning to get over the disappointment of not making the Bok squad, but coming back here to a fantastic team made it so much easier,’ Whiteley commented. ‘What’s also really helped is the captaincy of Jaco [Kriel], which has taken a bit of pressure off me, and I could really just focus on playing my game.
‘Prior to my first Currie Cup game, I hadn’t really played for two months, so I just needed some time to get back into the swing of things. Last weekend was the first time I really felt like I was back to where I want to be, so I’m feeling like my old self again.’
Although still forming a big part of the Lions’ leadership group, Whiteley said it had been very rewarding to see Kriel’s progression as both a player and a leader.
‘I remember when I was with the Boks, and watching the Lions play, I could see he was leading from the front. After Jaco’s first game as captain, I called him and just let him know that it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. He’s really done that, putting his body on the line and making an impact during crucial moments. I think the best is still to come from Jaco, I see him becoming a Springbok in the near future.’
Turning his attention to Saturday’s final against Western Province, Whiteley said the Lions were as well-prepared as they could be.
‘Decision-making is always really important in play-off rugby, those decisions in crucial moments are what can win or lose you the game.
'Finals are always close, but we’re really excited for this challenge … We know how dangerous Western Province’s outside backs are with the likes of Cheslin [Kolbe] and [Seabelo] Senatla, and their forwards will try and create space for those type of players.
'Province have a good set piece and are a very strong all-round side, but we feel we’re ready, and now just can’t wait for kick-off.’
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