Assistant coach Matt Proudfoot believes Warren Whiteley's leadership will be a boon for the Boks in the absence of Duane Vermeulen, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.
Whiteley is in line to start his first Test for the Boks in Saturday's third and final encounter against Ireland, with Vermeulen having been ruled out with an elbow injury.
The Lions skipper made an outstanding impact off the bench last Saturday, reaffirming the view that he is the form No 8 in South Africa, and although he is a very different player to the physical Vermeulen, Proudfoot insisted that he would add great value to the Bok cause.
‘Warren is a really intelligent player, he’s very sharp. He’s a good lineout exponent and quick off the base, but what’s amazed me is his leadership. The way he leads the guys around him is phenomenal and he has an unbelievable work ethic.
‘We had a chat on Monday evening and I said to him that what I really respect is the way he leads the guys, and I really think he makes the job easier for [captain] Adriaan [Strauss] and he aligns a lot of the fringe players, and that’s crucial in the squad.’
Whiteley has been unable to take contact over the first two days of training in Port Elizabeth this week, but Proudfoot said this was just a precautionary measure and that he would be ready to go on Saturday.
Besides the loss of Vermeulen, which is set to see Jaco Kriel come into the match 23, the Boks will also be without Lood de Jager (calf strain) and Trevor Nyakane (ankle injury). The latter is set to be replaced by another potential debutant in Steven Kitshoff, although the Boks have confirmed that they will also be calling up another utility prop to provide cover for both the loosehead and tighthead positions as Nyakane did.
Proudfoot said it was undoubtedly a blow to be without three influential forwards ahead of Saturday’s game, but expressed his excitement at seeing how their replacements would grab the opportunity.
‘We’ve lost a lot of ballast, that’s for sure. Lood has done really well and controlled the lineouts nicely in the first Test. He was nice and physical, but Pieter-Steph has come in and done a great job. Duane is a world-class performer and one of those forwards who ties the whole pack together. Warren has been doing really well for his franchise, though, and is a player who leads by example.
‘Then it is a blow to lose Trevor because he’s a guy who can play on both sides of the scrum, and it’s important to have a player who has that versatility. But, there again, it’s an opportunity for Kitsie [Kitshoff]. I really believe in him. I coached him as a young boy and watched him develop into a man at the Stormers, so I’m really excited to see how he goes.’
The 23-man Springbok squad to play against Ireland in the series-deciding Test at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will be announced at 13:00 on Thursday.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images