After being blessed with a second son, he may lead his country to victory in the opening Test at Loftus Versfeld this afternoon. But standing in his way are the French.
“I’m so grateful. It has been (a hell of a ride). I’ve really enjoyed every single moment,” the 29-year-old said yesterday.
Today, Whiteley will be judged on his performance by the Bok faithful. The Springboks endured their worst season last year, when they could muster only four wins out of 12 Test matches.
But the calm and often laidback Whiteley is not overawed by the task that awaits the team.
Bok coach Allister Coetzee heaped praise on the “King of the Lions pride”, describing him as a “resilient” player. Whiteley knows too well his team faces hurdles in its quest to regain its status as world-beaters.
And the loose forward believes his young and inexperienced team has the perfect opportunity to stake a claim ahead of the international season.
“For me, it feels the norm. I know what I have to do. It doesn’t feel intimidating at all,” said Whiteley, who has been capped 15 times for the Boks.
“We’ve had sufficient time to prepare (and) great training camps, which have benefited us and laid our foundation in the way we want to play.”
Whiteley, who is the 58th Springbok captain, believes that the identity of style is crucial, but that this can only be achieved through the collective. “I believe each team has an individual culture, and it can’t be created by one person. It has to be created by the collective, and it is a lot more effective that way.”
There were various aspects that needed to happen for the Boks to reclaim their glory, among them “values and certain traditions that we want to keep”.
It was important to inculcate the spirit of brotherhood and work as a family. “That’s what we are all about as Springboks. We are a diverse nation and team, and we need to embrace that,” said Whiteley.
The Boks will take heart from their history at Loftus Versfeld, which has been their fortress – they haven’t lost a Test there in over a decade.
“Loftus is a special place, we know the history that it holds. I’ve had some great games on this field in the past, some great battles and Test matches.
“I’m really looking forward to it. We know the supporters will be out there and the atmosphere is always brilliant at Loftus. It is something we are all looking forward to as players.”