Whiteley led Lions by example
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Relatively unsung Lions captain Warren Whiteley
has emerged as possibly the most industrious South African forward
statistically after completion of Super Rugby 2014 ordinary season.
The full-blooded, mobile No 8 led from the front once again
as the Johannesburg franchise ended their praiseworthy first season back in the
big time after a year’s gap with a spectacular 60-25 crushing of domestic
rivals the Cheetahs at Ellis Park on Saturday.
It was the seventh victory of the campaign for the Lions –
more than some critics had predicted at the outset – and ensured they ended 12th
overall and above the Free Staters in the SA conference.
There has been rightful praise both for the captaincy of
Durban-born Whiteley, 26, and coaching of former Springbok second-row hard man
As much as anything, both ooze passion and pure enjoyment of
their responsibilities from every pore, something that appears to have rubbed
off throughout the pretty humble Lions ranks.
Following the completion of the conference campaign,
Whiteley stands tall in two statistical categories: tackles and lineouts.
South African names are conspicuously absent this year from
the “top 10s” in the categories for most ball-carries, clean breaks and
defenders beaten, but the Lions man redresses the balance quite nicely in the
two prior-mentioned departments.
Whiteley is second only to Force leadership and loose
forward counterpart Matt Hodgson (easy winner with 234) for tackles completed
That tally has him level-pegging with Highlanders No 8 Nasi
Manu, although the Dunedin-based player gets the opportunity to move clear when
his team tackles the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday in the first round of
Again, no other South Africans crack the top 10 for tackles.
But Whiteley’s work-rate doesn’t end there: he also finds
himself in eighth across the competition for lineouts secured (49).
That is one area where traditionally South African forwards
excel, and this year is no different.
The Sharks’lanky Stephan Lewies, a freshly-capped Springbok,
tops the pile with 77 grabs, and can add to that against the Highlanders,
whilst Bulls veteran and established aerial maestro Victor Matfield currently
holds second spot on 73; his Super Rugby year is over.
Stormers utility forward Michael Rhodes, who has been
standing in capably for injured Eben Etzebeth as No 4 lock of late, is fifth
with 58 takes.
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