JOHANNESBURG - Springbok captain Warren Whiteley freely admits he misses his Bok teammates terribly but at the same time he says the hours, days, weeks and months he has been able to spend with his family in recent times have been a “silver lining”.
A groin injury, picked up in June, just two Tests into his captaincy of the national side, has laid him low and he’s set to only return to the game next year, for the Lions, in Super Rugby. In his absence, Eben Etzebeth has led the Boks, a job he’ll again do on this month’s four-Test tour of Europe.
“I’ll miss the guys again now when they go on tour, but I know the rest has done me good, too,” said Whiteley this week. “Also I have a young family; my son is five months old, my daughter is three, and being able to spend quality time with them is special, it’s the silver lining.”
Whiteley is now only, a full four months after picking up the injury, on the road to full recovery after a number of, what some would describe as, misdiagnoses.
“I started off with rehabilitation, without an operation, but then when things didn’t get better, I had an op, for a sportsman’s groin injury,” explained the Lions and Bok skipper.
“Then, nothing happened. I didn’t get better and there was no improvement. We tried a number of different things and only after exploring all sorts of things, and doing a multitude of tests, did we find what was wrong. I had the nerves in the groin tested and that was the problem, and now we can work on that.
“What we found is that the nerves on the one side of the groin weren’t as active as they were on the other side, 45 percent less active actually. So now, having got the right diagnosis, it finally feels as if we’re moving forward, in the right direction.”
Whiteley admitted he was somewhat worried at one stage that he wasn’t healing. “We didn’t have answers and that was a challenge. At times I felt we were going nowhere, that there was no improvement and I wondered whether I’d actually get better. It was scary that we put so much work in, doing rehab and so on, and there was no progress.”
With the “nerve blockage” now on the mend - it’s been three weeks since Whiteley started his current treatment - things are looking up once again. “I’m so grateful,” he says. “I’ll start jogging early next week but already I’ve made good strides.”
The regular Bok captain will again watch his Bok mates from afar and he feels they’re in for a good tour. “It’s another huge opportunity for them. It’s been a long season, with a lot of rugby, but they must embrace the challenges and use the opportunity in front of them.
“The team has to keep evolving, keep improving, but I believe they’re on the right track. I’ve seen plenty of improvement in the performances this year; they’ve been doing the right things, and I believe they’ll keep getting stronger as a team.
"The big thing for me is they must enjoy the next four weeks. I’m excited to watch them.”