Cape Town – Warren Whiteley must remain right at the
forefront in the race to become new Springbok captain in 2017, insists widely-travelled
director of rugby and coach Gary Gold.
Gold, a member of the Bok coaching panel in an altogether
happier era when they beat the British and Irish Lions in the 2009 series and
won the former Tri-Nations in the same year, says people must be cautious not
to judge Whiteley too harshly on his role in the collective struggle by the
national team in 2016.
The leadership is up for grabs next year as Adriaan Strauss
has retired as Test skipper and hooker, although he will still play Super Rugby
for the Bulls next season.
“I continue to support Warren Whiteley’s credentials, big
time,” says Gold, who is back in Cape Town after recently stepping down from his
position as director of rugby at the Sharks for two campaigns.
He believes Whiteley is a classic case of a player whose
personal game is boosted by the cares of captaincy; in earning 15 Bok caps thus
far, it has always been as a rank-and-filer.
“I think critically we need a guy who is playing in South
Africa, who understands the landscape -- the Super Rugby scene, especially,”
Gold told Sport24.
“The history of Bok rugby has shown that there is a direct
link between very strong leaders on the field and successful teams – I think of
Francois Pienaar, Andre Vos, Gary Teichmann, John Smit.
“Many of them have been touted as being in the team that bit
more for what they offer in captaincy than in pure playing terms. There would
always have been a lot of talk about better players being potentially available
in their positions at times, but I can tell you from a Smit point of view, for
example, that what he brought in leadership was absolutely immense.
“When I talk of the value of guys like these, it comes not even
so much during the 80 minutes of the Test match itself.
“It’s very much about the bridging between the players --
their feelings, their views – and the coaches; bridging that ‘divide’, if you
know what I mean, even if it shouldn’t really be a divide. The captain is a
vital conduit in that area.
“I believe quite strongly Warren is that personality. He’s
been critical as that bridging guy in the success of the Lions; I know (head
coach) Johan Ackermann views him almost as an extra assistant coach. We need to
see it like that.”
Gold is not overly concerned by Whiteley’s moderate showings
in a labouring Bok cause of late.
“When you analyse Warren’s playing ability, I do think he is
totally good enough to be in the team. He is playing at a difficult time for
the whole group, remember.
“But I do find him to be a very neat eighth-man. I think his
basics are very good; he’s a great lineout forward for one thing, one of our
“He is a beautiful runner with the ball … remember the try
against the All Blacks in Christchurch (earlier this year)? His footwork put
Bryan (Habana) into the hole.
“I think he is quite unique in South Africa because he is
one of the few (forwards) who actually uses footwork; gets you over the
advantage line. He passes well, his running lines are clever, and he is hugely
efficient stats-wise, with a fine work-rate. He falls back in defence very
“I almost do not see a negative to it (his possible
Gold admits there are certain other compelling No 8s.
“There’s Duane (Vermeulen), but he is not based in the
country … and on the subject of him, he could be a great option as blindside
(flank) as well.
“I believe Philip van der Walt is a wonderful rugby player
too; I obviously have inside information on him (from his Sharks tenure) --
very under-rated. Young Dan du Preez will become very good as well.
“But there aren’t hundreds of other options jumping off a
page, glaringly blocking a Warren Whiteley being Bok captain …”
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