‘Sevens success ignited dream’

Warren Whiteley says his selection for the Blitzboks got him believing that he could represent the Springboks at Test level.

The energetic Lions captain has arrived in Buenos Aires along with the rest of the Springbok squad ahead of their return fixture against Argentina in Salta this weekend. After 24 hours spent at airports and in the air, Whiteley would've been forgiven for being more than a little weary. Not even the long-haul flight could dampen his spirits, though.

'Nothing can dull my mood now,' he said upon his arrival. 'It's a dream come true, for every young South African; I actually don't have words to describe what I'm feeling.

'It's incredible… I got the call directly from the coach, with my wife sitting next to me. It was special, him asking me to join up with the squad. It's such a huge honour to be here with such great players.'

His selection has been just reward for a year that has seen him lead the Lions through their best ever Super Rugby season, before winning gold with the Springbok Sevens at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

Whiteley was previously involved with the Blitzboks, having earned a call-up in late 2012. It was his first involvement in the national set-up at any level, and the first time that he got to dream that one day he'd become a Bok.

'Before that, I didn't believe I was good enough,' recalls Whiteley. 'But when I got picked for the sevens team, something got going in my heart, it ignited a dream, so I'm grateful for that. I learnt a lot with the sevens guys.'

While Whiteley maintains that his involvement with the Blitzboks helped him develop as a player, he has reserved his highest praise for Johan Ackermann, the man who entrusted him with the captaincy at the Lions.

'I owe a lot to the Lions, they got me here in the first place. Coach Akkers also played a big part in my development. He's given me the freedom to develop into the player I've become and just as a person … he's had an impact on everyone in the squad.

'He's brought out the best in the players at the Lions, his experiences of playing at the highest level have rubbed off on the guys and he's a calming influence as well. He's just a great coach.'

Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images