The regular Lions captain will sit out the match because of bruising on his knee. He has started just four of the Lions’ 11 matches this season.
“It’s not nice, for him or for us,” said De Bruin. “Warren is such a passionate guy and he just wants to play rugby. I really feel for him.”
Whiteley’s first setback this season came in Round 2 of the competition when he hurt his chest in the away match against the Stormers which forced him to miss the next seven matches.
He returned to lead the Lions to an away win against the Chiefs, but then hurt his knee in that match in Hamilton.
The Springbok eighthman then returned to action last weekend, leading the Lions to a home win against the Waratahs, but a recurring problem means he won’t face the Highlanders.
“He’s in and then he’s out, and it’s obviously a little disruptive, for him and for us,” said De Bruin.
“But at least we’ve got some quality depth among the loose forwards and we simply have to adapt again for this weekend.
"We’ve also got some good leaders and I’ve got full confidence in Malcolm (Marx) to lead the team again.”
De Bruin didn’t want to say if Whiteley would be ready to play next weekend.
“It’s not something that happened during last weekend’s match but came to the fore afterwards, so I’m not going to look too far ahead. We’ll see how he feels next week.”
With Whiteley out, Kwagga Smith will again play at No 8 with fit-again Cyle Brink coming into the side at blindside flank. Marnus Schoeman will on the openside.
The other change to the starting team is in the front row, where Dylan Smith will take over from Sti Sithole in a rotational switch at loosehead prop.
The back line is unchanged.
“I must say it’s nice to be able to pick the same back line for a second week,” said De Bruin. “They played well against the Waratahs and deserve a chance to show what they can do against a very good and strong Highlanders team.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 3pm.@jacq_west