JOHANNESBURG - One of the major sub-plots of Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final between the Sharks and Lions in Durban is the return to action of key No 8 Warren Whiteley for the Joburg team.
Now while his Lions coaches - and the fans - will be hoping he plays an influential role in the match and helps his team get past the Sharks, Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus will be interested in only one thing; that he come through the game intact and without any further injury. Understandably, Whiteley is highly rated by Erasmus and the eighthman is viewed as a key man in the Bok squad for next month’s four-Test tour of Europe.
Whiteley, who didn’t miss any of his 27 tackles in the 36-34 win against the All Blacks in Wellington a few weeks ago, missed the home Tests recently against Australia and New Zealand because of injury. The good news for the Boks though is the injury that sidelined him is not a repeat of the groin and pelvic problems that sidelined him for most of last season.
The recent injury, according to the Lions’ doctor Rob Collins, was an adductor muscle problem, which needed only three weeks of rehabilitation. “It was a grade one strain, which means it was really just swollen. Warren has passed all the tests and trained fully so he’s fine,” said Collins.
Besides Whiteley’s quality defensive work, his leadership and his calm head will make him a key man for the Boks in Europe next month, where the team will play Tests against England, France, Scotland and Wales.
First though Whiteley will have to come through a tough examination by the Sharks in Durban on Saturday. If he ticks all the boxes he’s likely to join the rest of the contracted Boks and those not involved in next week’s Currie Cup final at a training camp in Stellenbosch next week.