JOHANNESBURG – Warren Whiteley has declared himself fully fit and will feature for the Lions in their second and final warm-up game against the Sharks in Cape Town this weekend ahead of the start of Super Rugby in three weeks’ time.
Whiteley hurt his calf during the off-season and only recently returned to full contact training with his team-mates. He, like the majority of senior players in the squad, didn’t feature in the match against the Bulls in Pretoria last Saturday.
But the Springbok loose-forward will play in the Superhero Day in Cape Town on Sunday when the Lions will come up against the Sharks at 2pm. The match will be followed by the clash between the Stormers and Bulls.
“Yip, I’m fit and recovered and ready to play,” Whiteley said yesterday.
He added that most of the Lions’ senior players, among them Malcolm Marx, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Combrinck and Andries Coetzee, would get game time against the Sharks.
“We want everyone to get a run this weekend. The youngsters mostly played against the Bulls last week, so the (senior) guys need some game time. In the last few years we’ve tried to ensure that everyone gets between 60 and 70 minutes of time on the field by the start of Super Rugby.”
Whiteley, who’ll captain the side again this season, added that proper game time was crucial in getting the body ready for the competition.
“Getting the body contact-ready is 50 percent of what we’ll take out of this weekend’s match,” said the No 8. “It’s all about getting game fit; you just don’t get the same running around on the training ground.
“It’ll also give us a chance to lift the intensity and try some new things, like new calls, new combinations. It’s just a great opportunity for us to sharpen up.”
On Sunday, 03/02 Cape Town will become a battlefield when #Spiderman (@emirates Lions) face #BlackPanther (@TheSharksZA ) @ 14:00. Here's a special message from Emirates Lions captain, @WarrenWhiteley.— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) January 25, 2019
Buy your tickets here: https://t.co/iLP010wVIw#LionsPride@SuperRugby pic.twitter.com/FZKuXo7I5S
While confident of another good competition showing, Whiteley said it was way too early to be making predictions.
“It’s difficult to say we are where we want to be; we believe we are, but you’ll only know once the competition gets going and after seeing what trends develop.
“We lost a few players last year, especially in the pack (like Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen and Franco Mostert), but then we’ve got some great youngsters coming through and some new talent like Stephan Lewies. Also there are still some old heads around, especially in the backs, who’ll be an unchanged unit this year.
“Super Rugby is so unpredictable, so I don’t know what’s going to happen, but one thing is for sure; we’re not going to change our style of play and we’ll continue to look to score tries.”
Lions coach Swys de Bruin will name his team for Saturday’s match today.@jacq_west