Whiteley: More to come from Lions
Johannesburg - Lions captain Warren
Whiteley is confident that the Johannesburg-based union will continue to grow
from strength to strength in future competitions.
The Lions impressed many during their Super
Rugby campaign in 2015.
Despite their slow start to the season,
losing their opening matches against the Hurricanes (22-8), Sharks (29-12) and
Stormers (22-19), they went on to win nine of their following 12 fixtures. This
included a successful overseas tour, which saw them beat the Blues (13-10),
Rebels (20-16) and Reds (18-17) in Australasia.
They were close to qualifying for the Super
Rugby playoffs, but a 19-19 draw against the Stormers at Newlands last Saturday
confirmed that they can only finish as high as seventh - one place short of
making the wildcard quarter-finals (the Lions have a bye during the last league
round this weekend).
Despite the disappointment of missing out
on a top-six finish, Whiteley believes this is only the start of their growth
as a team.
“This all started when Johan Ackermann took
over as head coach and encouraged the players to play for each other and the
jersey. He put the pride back into Lions rugby, which had a major influence on
the team,” Whiteley told MyPlayers.co.za.
“We enjoyed a strong finish to Super Rugby
last year, and we did well during this year’s tournament. This is all reward
for the hard work we’ve put in to ensure the Lions excel as a unit… as a
Whiteley added that the Lions will be
aiming to add to this momentum during this year’s Currie Cup and future Super
“It’s important that each individual grows
and matures together in this team. The players get to know each other’s
strengths and we learn how to bring the best out of each other,” said Whiteley.
“The Lions management have worked hard to
put the necessary processes in place to ensure we remain a unit going forward.
Most of the guys have signed on to stay with the Lions for the foreseeable
future. To achieve success in rugby, you need to stick and commit to a group of
Whiteley also believes the support from the
fans have had a major influence on the team.
“There’s definitely notable growth in the
crowds showing up at Ellis Park compared to previous seasons,” said Whiteley.
“We know that winning rugby draws in the fans, but even when we struggled
during the opening rounds, our supporters were still backing us. This meant a
lot to the team, and encouraged every player to play for the jersey.”
When speaking to other players in the Lions
squad, they mention Whiteley’s captaincy as a major influence on and off the
However, modestly, the 27-year-old thanked
his team-mates for his growth as a leader.
“I have to thank the guys around me for
their support and assistance. They’ve made the job a whole lot easier for me,”
explained Whiteley. “Around me, there are other leaders, who share the
responsibility. Guys like Elton Jantjies, who has done really well since
returning from Japan… Jaco Kriel and Franco Mostert have played out of their skins
week in and week out… and Lionel Mapoe, who has been captain before, has really
done well in the backline. These are just a few of the players who make a
massive difference in their respective positions.”
For more exclusive player content, check out MyPlayers.co.za