Currie Cup

Whiteley future Bok captain?

2014-10-26 23:00
Warren Whiteley (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – If a succession plan is yet to be formulated for the Springbok captaincy, then expect it to at least not be too far away.

In fractionally over a year’s time, the 2015 World Cup will be a thing of the past and South Africa will, in all likelihood, have bade farewell to an era in which Jean de Villiers, particularly, and Victor Matfield have been the central leadership figures.

De Villiers will 34 by the time that event ends and Matfield an even more long-in-the-tooth 38, so their retirement - certainly from international rugby - is strongly likely then.

As long as those two are injury-free and steering things smoothly (De Villiers overall and Matfield in the pack) there should be little need for alternative Bok leadership considerations until RWC 2015 has run its course.

But there will be the inevitable changing of the guard - both in captaincy and certain personnel - immediately after it and the country will be seeking a fresh on-field figurehead.

Who it may be is not a question with especially obvious answers yet, but it is increasingly my own belief that Golden Lions skipper Warren Whiteley will be among those under consideration.

It may not be much immediate consolation to Lions fans, following the agonisingly close defeat to Western Province in Saturday’s high-quality Currie Cup final at Newlands, but if anything the leadership stocks of their No 8 only rose in a national context after it.

The Lions certainly did not come second because of any failings on the part of their captain: indeed, he was typically full-blooded in personal performance terms and suitably animated in cajoling a response from his dapper men – which undoubtedly came – after the hosts had taken an early stranglehold on the scoreboard.

In a match that genuinely could have gone either way and with the Lions pressing right to the death, the final will be remembered, among other good reasons, for the composure and accuracy off the kicking tee of WP’s Demetri Catrakilis and the untimely off-day in that respect by the Lions’ normally trusty Marnitz Boshoff which was to prove pivotal.

You don’t suddenly hand out Springbok captaincies for good grace in defeat, of course.

But just for the record, Whiteley showed that in admirable bag-loads after a distinguished Newlands advertisement for rugby, played in impeccable spirit.

As Wikus van Heerden, a former Bok loose forward favourite and member of the last victorious Lions Currie Cup side in 2011, said in the SuperSport studio after Saturday’s nail-biter, the losing captain’s televised post-game interview is one of the least enviable tasks in the game.

Yet Whiteley managed to temporarily bury his huge disappointment to deliver a refreshingly articulate, cliché-free address, describing the great pleasure of just sampling a showpiece in one of the world’s most time-honoured competitions while fulsomely crediting the winning side.

He has been Captain Courageous for much of a fine campaign by the Lions, the glue binding together a largely unsung but gutsy and vibrant bunch of players.

There are many rivers to cross before next year’s World Cup, and just for one thing, Whiteley is merely one, at this point, of the usual vast array of loose forwards in this country vying for just three berths in the Bok XV.

He hasn’t even started a Test yet, having made two appearances as a substitute during the Castle Rugby Championship a few weeks ago.

But the Durban-born, Glenwood High product is also is a player on the up, and having turned 27 only last month, is one who should have plenty of gas in the tank for another four-year cycle after the next World Cup.

A few weeks before the latest Currie Cup final, Whiteley was already getting significantly good reviews from people of influence.

Matfield described him as a “great leader and energetic player” who had lots of pace and “puts himself in good positions as a ball carrier”.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has also lauded him as a “natural No 8”.

And on that score, remember that even if the mighty Duane Vermeulen is the deserved incumbent of that position in the Test side, he also offers solid possibilities down the line as a rugged blindside flanker.

Don’t get me wrong, there will other, probably attractive Bok captaincy candidates for the post-2015 period and Whiteley nailing down a regular spot is no fait accompli.

But even at this long-range point, I wouldn’t be too hasty, if I were you, to bet against Warren Roger Whiteley leading out his country from 2016 onward, and thus becoming the third Transvaal/Golden Lions national captain of the post-isolation after a certain Francois Pienaar, and a few years later Andre Vos.

Whiteley is not a follower, and he has the sort of ambassadorial skills and respect from those around him that have marked the De Villiers tenure as national leader.

Mark my words, there is something about him.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    currie cup  |  warren whiteley  |  rugby

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