Warren Whiteley is your average, ordinary, everyday dude, to borrow a line from Def Leppard’s Let’s get rocked, but he is also so much more than that.
He is the ultimate motivator, a team man and one heck of a rugby player. He’s now also the Springboks’ new captain, the 58th man to get the job.
The 29-year-old takes over from Adriaan Strauss, who retired last season, and according to coach Allister Coetzee, the Lions captain was always going to be his next leader.
“I made up my mind long ago. It was the logical choice. He’s been the most consistent performer at No 8 for a long time,” said the Bok boss. “When you think of a Springbok captain, you have to consider certain characteristics in a man. You’re not just looking at form and the way he chats to the media. He’s got to understand certain things, on and off the field, and Warren does that.
“Being a Bok captain is a huge challenge in this unique country. He’s walked a long way to get here – he grew up in Durban, didn’t play Junior Boks and only got his first proper contract at 23. He’s been resilient and showed he can make the right decisions under pressure.
“He brings out the best in people and is a very fine rugby player. I know we’re going to have a good time together,” said Coetzee.
Whiteley was only asked on Monday evening whether he would consider captaining the side. He said he was grateful and excited by the opportunity and explained how things went down, when called to the coach’s quarters.
“Having a one-on-one session with the coach isn’t unusual, but it was a nice surprise when he asked me to be captain. We had a nice chat. It was quite long, maybe 45 minutes. It wasn’t just about rugby, but life as well, and that’s important. He told me to go home and have a chat with my wife, so I did.”
He continued: “I kept to myself when I got home. The little one (daughter Ava, 2) was running around, so I never got a chance to say anything. Eventually I put a DVD of (kids character) Peppa Pig on, and got her watching to get my wife’s (Felicity) attention. She was shocked and grateful.”
Whiteley said captaining the Boks wouldn’t change him. “I’m actually very relaxed right now. I’m just so grateful my life will change a bit, but I won’t change. I’m still going to be the same guy. I’m just so excited for this opportunity to grow as a person.”
The new Bok leader said he would focus on getting the small things right in the coming days, leading up to the first France Test. “It’s completely different to captaining a franchise team, here everyone is from a different union so that’s a challenge. But I’ve never feared captaincy so I’m looking forward to it.
“I think it’s important not to over-think things. First things first will be to get to know all the players, to build relationships. . We need to chat to each other, know each other; that’s important, where everything starts.”