Lions captain runs rampant

2014-03-23 14:00

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A Lion with a shark fin would be something to behold, but that’s a fair description of Lions captain Warren Whiteley.

The Lions have created ripples in this year’s Super Rugby season by returning from their year in exile with determination and vigour, giving the lie to pretournament predictions they would be at the bottom of the log the entire season.

Much of the kudos for this has gone to the goalkicking exploits of fly half Marnitz Boshoff, but another important aspect has been Whiteley’s understated but undeniably skilful captaincy.

He has revealed himself to be a canny leader, both in the manner he has led the team on the field as well as the way in which he has coped with his off-field duties.

Like a few of his team-mates in the red and white, he has gone from being relatively unknown to being a player who has been tipped for inclusion in the national squad, especially because his qualities of pace, ballhandling and vision on attack are lacking in the current pool of Springbok loose forwards.

Like Boshoff, Whiteley was also forced to move from his home town to seek playing opportunities elsewhere.

Born and educated in KwaZulu-Natal, he captained Glenwood High School’s first team and made the Sharks’ Craven Week side in 2005 with two other Super Rugby players now working in another province: the Stormers’ Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes.

He was a member of The Sharks Academy but faced a plethora of outstanding and more senior loose forwards in Durban.

He then had a spell with the EP Elephants before moving to Joburg at the behest of Dick Muir when the former Springbok assistant coach was in charge of the Lions.

Driven by the goal of all young South African rugby players to become a Springbok, Whiteley soon made his mark and was a member of the Lions side that won the Currie Cup in 2011, coming on as a replacement for injured captain Josh Strauss.

Last year, when the Lions were relegated from Super Rugby to make way for the Kings, his skills were recognised when he was called into the Springbok Sevens side and this year he was a surprise but clearly worthy choice as Johan Ackermann’s captain.

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