Warren Whiteley is doing everything that he can get back on the field for the Lions so he can prove to Rassie Erasmus that he is fit enough to take to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year. Photo: Chris Kotze/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Warren Whiteley has admitted that even if he were 100 percent fit he would possibly struggle to get into the Springbok squad right now.

Whiteley is fighting hard to be fit in the next few weeks to get some game time and push for a late inclusion in Rassie Erasmus’s World Cup team. He has been sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury and played only four Super Rugby games this year.

But breaking into the current Bok squad won’t be easy and Whiteley knows it.

“It’s tougher for sure to now try to break into the squad,” he said yesterday, referring to the depth at loose-forward, which now includes overseas-based men Marcell Coetzee, Rynhardt Elstadt and Francois Louw. Captain and No 6 Siya Kolisi is also currently in a race to prove his fitness.

“The squad is looking extremely strong, and not just in the loose-forwards, but across all the positions. It’s going to be more difficult from the outside because the guys who are there are playing together; they’re forming bonds and combinations.

“But trying to get into the squad is not in my hands, and there is no use focusing on it. All I can do is focus on what I can do, what is in my hands.”

The knee injuries this season have left Whiteley with plenty to do to convince Erasmus he should be part of the final World Cup squad for the tournament in Japan - even if he gets back on the field before the final 31-man squad is named.

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“I know Rassie has got his plans; I just want to give myself a shot. I’m only focused on getting back onto the field and hopefully performing at a high enough level.

“I just want to do everything I can so that one day when I look back, I can say I gave it a proper shot. What happens after that (whether I am selected or not) is out of my hands.”

But Whiteley is still desperately keen to get to Japan as a Bok player.

“The World Cup is huge for any player, and that’s probably why I don’t want to think about it too much. It’s massive, and it’s my only shot. It’s a huge honour to represent one’s country at a World Cup; the pinnacle of every player’s career.”

While he didn’t want to target a specific return date, the Lions No 8 is hopeful of getting a Currie Cup outing on August 10 against the Blue Bulls.

If he gets through that game and is selected, then he could run out in the Boks’ final outing before the World Cup squad is named, against Argentina in a friendly at Loftus Versfeld on August 17.

“I’m on track and know I just have to focus on the process that needs to be followed, and that includes me staying calm,” said Whiteley.

The Lions return to Currie Cup action this week following their bye last weekend and face Western Province at Newlands on Saturday.

In their first outing 10 days ago, Ivan van Rooyen’s men edged the Pumas in a high scoring affair at Emirates Airline Park. Meanwhile, Emirates have renewed their team title sponsor contract and naming rights for the Lions’ home ground, Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, until 2024. The partnership between the Lions and Emirates started in 2015.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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