Warren Whiteley chats to Sport24

2014-04-17 12:38

Cape Town - Charismatic Lions captain Warren Whiteley, answers YOUR questions. He discusses defying the odds, shares some secrets about his team-mates and looks ahead to facing the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Jodi Marais asked: After eight matches the Lions hold a 50 percent success rate. What’s your assessment?

Warren Whiteley: Had I been asked this question prior to the start of the season, I may well have said: “Four wins from eight is pretty good.” However, owing to the way we have performed on our return to Super Rugby, it’s fair to say that we would definitely have liked to have won more matches at this stage. In spite of recent defeats, I’m proud of the way the team have performed thus far this season.

Steven Riches asked: Do you share the view that “consistency is the measure of a side’s mental ability?”

Warren Whiteley: I guess it is to an extent. However, there are so many variant factors within rugby. For example, one mistake can cost a side points, which can then lead to the loss of a game and therefore critics can come to the conclusion that a side is inconsistent. In terms of mental development, I feel that as a side we have progressed really well. We honestly believe that we can beat any side on any given day. We have defeated the likes of the Stormers, Reds and Blues who possess a number of international players within their ranks. Thus, at the Lions we don’t set limitations.

Bruce Geldenhuys asked: In recent weeks, what has happened to the attacking game, which the Lions had become renowned for in the last three years in particular?

Warren Whiteley: Super Rugby is a tough competition and more often than not defence wins matches. As such, we have placed a greater emphasis on our defensive structure. In Super Rugby, teams generally employ a more conservative game plan and feed off opposition error. While we scored the most tries in the Currie Cup Premier Division last season, Super Rugby is an altogether different beast. For example, a side will be severely punished if they adopt a run-from-anywhere mentality. To achieve positive results, we’ve had to employ a smart tactical game and discover a balance between running the ball and kicking well to exit our raid zone and relieve pressure.

John Isaacs asked: The Sharks top the overall log standings. What sets them apart from the chasing pack?

Warren Whiteley: Definitely their consistency of performance. Tactically, they play very smart rugby: their kicking game is sound, they capitalise on opposition mistakes and are devastating with turnover ball. If I’m not mistaken, they average the most points per game this season, which speaks for itself.

Jacques Stuart asked: Describe your leadership style and what you aspects you most enjoy of captaincy...

Warren Whiteley: I would like to think of myself as a skipper that leads from example. The best leaders are those that are selfless in serving the team. I believe the team’s interests must always be prioritised ahead of individual ambition. The interlinking decision-making between captain and coach is very important and executing tough on-field tactical calls is something which I really enjoy. All the players in our team care for and play for one another, which makes it a real honour and a privilege to lead this pride of Lions.

John van den Berg asked: Having played flyhalf at Under-16 level, is it fair to say that you outgrew the position?

Warren Whiteley: I spent most of my junior years playing at flyhalf as well as centre, fullback and even wing. In terms of my skills development, I feel it was of great advantage. As I grew older and bigger, I moved into the forwards and started out as fetcher before becoming an eighthman. Now being a member of the pack, I’m able to defend more, which is an aspect of the oval game that I really enjoy.

Johan Dyers asked: You spent the 2012/13 season with the BlitzBokke. What did you add to your game?

Warren Whiteley: It was a great experience and I learnt a lot from then coach Paul Treu. As a young player, experiencing Sevens puts you at a great advantage when heading into the 15-man code. You gain a much better understanding of space and as decisions have to be made very quickly, your skills improve immensely as well as your fitness and speed. While I’m a slow starter owing to my lanky legs, once I get into my running stride, I’m not too bad over 100 metres.

Dominic Valentine asked: When you aren’t leading the Lions into battle, what are your other interests?

Warren Whiteley: I’ve been coaching at St Stithians every Wednesday for a month now. I really enjoy giving back to the game and in a way it feels as though they are doing more for me than I am for them. In terms of my other passions, I really enjoy art, which runs in my family. I studied graphic design but am yet to complete the course. Another love of mine is fishing. Having grown up on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, fishing was always a huge part of my life and I’m now trying my hand at carp fishing in Johannesburg.

Greg Sara asked: The Lions appear a close-knit bunch; spill the beans on some of your team-mates…

Warren Whitely: (Laughs). Franco Mostert would be the messiest, Ruan Combrinck thinks he’s the funniest and Julian Redelinghuys has quite an epic beard at the moment so would be the hairiest. Robbie Coetzee is easily the worst singer in our side and Anthony Volmink is by far the loudest.

Bruce Mallinson asked: Having beaten the Stormers 34-10 earlier this season, does it motivate the team more or add extra pressure?

Warren Whiteley: Neither of the two to be honest. From the start of the season, we decided to take on each challenge individually. We’re aware of how close South African derbies generally are and by no means will we underestimate the Stormers. The Cape side have played some good rugby this season and I believe they’ve been unlucky in a few games. From a Lions’ perspective, we have placed a focus on our set-piece, as scrums and lineouts are particularly pivotal during SA derbies.


Naka Drotske

Michael Cheika

Francois Hougaard

Andre Watson

Chester Williams

Jono Ross

Johan Ackermann

Japie Mulder

Makhaya Ntini

Andre Joubert

James Dalton

Shaun Pollock

Jonathan Kaplan

James Small

Pat Symcox

Joe van Niekerk

Nick Mallett

Heyneke Meyer

Tiaan Strauss

John Mitchell

David Campese

Dean Furman