Whiteley hoping to help Lions from the sideline
JOHANNESBURG - Not being able to lead his team, his Lions, at home in the Super Rugby playoffs is something Warren Whiteley tries to not think about. It hurts too much.
“I dread even thinking about it,” said the regular Lions skipper. “I try not to think about it. It’s very difficult (missing out), it’s tough. Being involved with this team at this stage of the competition and considering what is on the line in the coming weeks, is everything I dreamed of.”
Whiteley will miss the all knockout rounds games this season after being ruled out of rugby for some time with a ligament injury in his pelvis. He also missed out on leading the Springboks at his home ground in June in the third Test against France, having picked up the injury in the week before the match.
The Lions have a wonderful chance of going all the way and becoming South Africa’s second franchise to lift the trophy after the Bulls, who have won the competition three times. After finishing top of the log, having suffered just one defeat in 15 outings.
This weekend, the Lions open the knockout phase of the competition with a quarter-final clash against the Sharks.
It really is déjà vu for Whiteley. Last June in the third Test against Ireland in Port Elizabeth he injured his AC joint in his shoulder and was at one stage ruled out of the rest of the Super Rugby competition.
His only involvement with the Lions after the June break came in the quarter-final win against the Crusaders ... and then in the final in a wet and windy Wellington, when the Lions lost to the Hurricanes.
As was the case a year ago when Whiteley remained close to the team and involved himself in team meetings and discussions, he will do the same this year.
“I’ll try and stay as involved as a I can with the team, but with all my physio, rehabilitation, getting into the oxygen chamber and so on it’s not like I have a lot of time on my hands,” he said.
“I would love to be at every training session, talking to the guys, and helping out where I can, but I can’t. I’ll do what I can.”
As tough as it has been watching his teammates finish top of the standings and seeing good mate Jaco Kriel leading the side out, Whiteley said the only thing that mattered right now was the team going all the way.
“As hard as it is for me, this is not about me ... it’s about the Lions, the team, the union,” he said. “The guys have got to this point and they now need to go on and win it. I’m just really so grateful and fortunate to have played a small part in it, this journey we have been on over the last few years. It’s been a privilege and an honour to be part of this team; that’s what’s important.”
Unlike last year when he recovered in time to play in the final in Wellington after missing the semi-final victory against the Highlanders in Joburg, Whiteley is unlikely to make a miracle return.
Whiteley said he would do “everything possible” to be back in time to lead the Boks when they kick off their Rugby Championship challenge against Argentina in PE on August 19.