Despite a major injury setback, Warren Whiteley is still hopeful he can force his way into Rassie Erasmus’ World Cup plans.
The Lions and Springbok No 8 has been sidelined with a knee injury for a number of weeks now and is unlikely to play in the next few weeks. He, however, said he would do whatever it took to get back on the field and show Erasmus he is over the injuries that sidelined him for most of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
“Rassie has got his plans, but I’m not focused on those. I just want to give myself a shot, and right now the focus for me is to get back on the field,” said Whiteley on Tuesday.
“I just want to do my rehab now, play again and then, hopefully, perform at a high enough level. What happens after that is out of my hands. But, I just want to do everything I can to get back. One day I want to be able to look back at this time and say, I gave it a shot.”
He added being part of the Bok team at the World Cup in Japan later this year would be awesome. “The World Cup is huge, for any player ... and it’s probably why I don’t want to think about it too much. It’s massive; it’s going to be my only shot.
“Of course, it’s a huge honour to represent one’s country at a World Cup; it’s the pinnacle of any player’s career.”
Whiteley, who played only four Super Rugby games this season, said it was emotionally challenging to have to deal with another injury, and see how well the Boks squad of Erasmus has gelled so far this year. He further admitted it would be tough for him to break into the squad even if 100% fit.
“It’s very challenging (picking up an injury),” said Whiteley. “I guess you learn how to deal with it, but it’s still difficult. Yes, you become mentally strong, and therefore can adapt, and you’re better for it ... but it remains devastating.
“I know it’s going to be tougher (to get back into that Bok squad) than before,” he added.
“That squad is looking extremely strong, and that’s not just in the loose-forwards, its’ across the all the positions. But again, that’s something that’s not in my hands, so there’s no use in focusing on it. I can only focus on what I can do, what’s in my hands.”
Whiteley has yet to do any contact training, but said he was hopeful of playing the Currie Cup game against the Blue Bulls on August 10 and then, if selected, get a shot at maybe taking on Argentina in the friendly Test at Loftus Versfeld on August 17. “My rehab is going well, but realistically those are the dates I’m looking at,” he said. “I’ve just got to stay calm and follow the process.”
The Lions are back playing Currie Cup rugby this week after last weekend’s bye. They travel to Cape Town for a date with Western Province on Saturday, with the team set to be named on Thursday.
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