New Springbok captain Warren Whiteley is determined to finish a memorable week with a crucial win against France at Loftus Versfeld. JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria reports.
It’s been a week to remember for the Whiteley family. On Monday evening, Whiteley and his wife welcomed their second child, Samuel, into the world. On the back of that special moment, Whiteley has been preparing in earnest for his first Test as Bok captain.
‘I could not have scripted this past week any better,’ Whiteley said when addressing the media in Pretoria on Friday. ‘It’s been so exciting, and I’m just so grateful. I’ve probably said that a thousand times already.’
The Bok No 8 spoke passionately and at length about the birth of his first son. The start of a new team culture and possibly a new era, said Whiteley, was another reason to celebrate.
‘Everything has been going so well at training. It’s been so easy for me these past few weeks. I’ve had a lot of support, both on and off the field, and I suppose that’s the key.
‘We have a massive opportunity to build something special in this team. We’ve had sufficient time to prepare going into this season. We’ve had some great training camps that have benefited us in more ways than one.
‘That most recent camp in Plettenberg Bay really laid the platform with regards to getting things in place for how we want to play and the culture we want to build. It’s all about establishing a brotherhood. It’s about becoming a family, about embracing each other as individuals, and about embracing our diversity, because we are a diverse nation and a diverse team.
‘It’s been a great buildup for me, for rugby and personal reasons,’ Whiteley added. ‘And I suppose the game at Loftus will be the cherry on the cake. We need to go out there and put all we’ve done in training into practice [in a match situation].’
The Boks haven’t lost at Loftus since 2006. In one sense, that will encourage the Boks and their fans ahead of the clash against the French on Saturday. In another, it may heap the pressure on Allister Coetzee’s Boks, who won’t want to add another black mark to their scoresheet.
Last year witnessed eight defeats in 12 Tests, and concluded with four consecutive losses. A defeat at Loftus would mark the Boks’ fifth straight loss. South Africa have not endured such a streak since 2006.
‘We are all supporters of the Boks. Even I am still a supporter. But you have ups and downs as a team. That’s the reality of sport,’ said Whiteley.
‘That said, we as players are determined to put some pride back into the jersey [after the results of last year]. We’ve worked extremely hard over the past few months, and have received some terrific support.
‘There’s been a great energy this past week and I’m sure the public will be screaming for us this Saturday.’