JOHANNESBURG – Lions No 8 and inspirational captain Warren Whiteley’s World Cup hopes have been dealt a new blow by the news he will not start the Currie Cup competition next week.
It was hoped Whiteley would return to action next Saturday when the Lions open their Currie Cup campaign with a game against the Pumas at Ellis Park to show he is healthy and well, but the eighthman and regular team leader is still trying to recover from a knee injury that prematurely ended his Super Rugby campaign a few weeks ago.
“We’re hoping Warren will play some time in the Currie Cup, but it won’t be in the next few weeks,” said Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli yesterday. “Warren will probably only return to action sometime in August. He’s still busy with his rehab.”
The news means Whiteley won’t have much time - if any at all - to prove to national head coach Rassie Erasmus he is fit enough to go to the World Cup before the final 31-man squad is named towards the end of August.
The Lions’ Currie Cup games are on July 13, July 27, August 2, August 10, August 18 and August 24.
Whiteley only played four Super Rugby matches this year because of a chest muscle injury and a knee problem.
He has also missed out on selection to the 40-man training group currently assembled in Pretoria preparing for the international season, while other injured players were included in the training squad.
Straeuli said the experienced loose-forward still had a future at the Lions, despite several other players, among them Lionel Mapoe and Ruan Combrinck, opting to move abroad.
“Warren is in our long-term plans. He’s a leader.”@jacq_west