Johannesburg - New Springbok call-up Warren Whiteley could well find himself playing a bigger part in this weekend’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship game than he thought as injury concerns followed the Boks en route to Argentina.
The supersport.com website reports, Already gearing themselves up for a tough match in Salta this weekend, the Boks will need to take all the positives out of their performance in the monsoon rain at Loftus and turn it around to ensure a second victory over Los Pumas in a fixture they have traditionally struggled in.
Whiteley was a last minute call-up before the Loftus game when Willem Alberts went down to a hamstring injury, and has been called up as cover for loose forward and no8 – something hat Alberts was also the back-up to.
Whiteley’s prowess in the loose, his natural roving ability and his lineout options he provides the team will weigh heavily on coach Heyneke Meyer’s mind as he uses the short week to plan for the assault that is waiting for the Boks in Salta.
While the Boks took a chance in playing two opensiders at Loftus, it is unlikely they will repeat that going into the Salta game. The loss of a big ball carrier, coupled with the loss of another option in the lineouts was rather costly on a night where very little went right for either side. The Boks pride themselves on go-forward ball, and Meyer is likely to look to prop up that option for this weekend’s match.
With Alberts back home in South Africa, Meyer has a few options. Juan Smith’s return to the side could have the fairytale move of including the veteran back in the side in the place of Coetzee, using his wealth of experience to good effect this week.
But Smith is also struggling with a hamstring strain and there was even talk that he may not have made the trip to Argentina at one stage. With such an injury being a tough one to predict, it will be interesting to see what Meyer decides to do come team selection.
His other option is Teboho Mohoje, who has excelled in making it into the Bok side this year, and offers both the ball-carrier and lineout option.
Either way, Smith also offers cover for 8 if necessary and Whiteley could find himself on the bench if Meyer’s options don’t fully work out in the two training sessions the Boks have this week.
Meyer did say he was concerned over the loss of Alberts and what it would mean for the team.
“I was always worried about what would happen if Willem got injured. We need a big ball carrier and Juan Smith fulfills that role, but he has also struggled with injury,” Meyer said.
“The reason why we went for Warren is that he has been playing great rugby and has been impressing me. At one stage it was between Pierre (Spies) and Duane (Vermeulen) for No 8, and we had Arno Botha who could also cover 8 for us. I’ve always been worried that if Willem gets injured we don’t have a cover for 8. All the other guys – Oupa included – are great blindside flankers, so the question is do you bring another guy who is exactly the same as Willem, when we have Juan Smith, or do we bring in a cover for Duane, because we don’t have a cover if he gets injured.
“Warren is a classical eight, I’ve always been in contact and told him he is a great leader, I’ve been impressed with what he did in the Sevens as well. It’s great to have him involved and I think he is going to push hard for the team.”
Much of that will depend on the team dynamic for the week, and Smith’s fitness, but Whiteley has been impressive all season and many will be happy to see his form being rewarded.
Salta won’t be an easy place to start a Bok career, but Whiteley, if he gets the chance, needs to be ready.