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    Lions must go on without influential Whiteley

    2016-06-29 23:00

    Brendan Nel - SuperSport.com

    Johannesburg - While he is gutted to have lost his captain and leader, Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes the team will be able to continue on their course towards the Vodacom Super Rugby playoff rounds in his absence.

    Whiteley injured his shoulder while playing for the Springboks and has been ruled out for six weeks, meaning his Super Rugby season is over.

    Whiteley is expected to return in time for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship though but Jaco Kriel, who made his Springbok debut on Saturday, will take over the leadership role for the Lions in the next few weeks.

    “What can you say, it is a setback for us. Warren is a special person on and off the field, his leadership is a huge loss for us,” coach Johan Ackermann told Supersport.com

    “But the team has grown a lot in the last few years and we have developed a lot of leaders. A guy like Jaco Kriel led the team in the Currie Cup when Warren was at the Springboks and then when he was injured. The group have learnt to play without Warren in the past.”

    Ackermann admitted the Lions would rely on their senior players to lead them forward, especially the likes of Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe, both of which have captained the side before.

    “We are also going to rely a lot on guys like Elton and Lionel, guys who have played at that level and have led the team. We knew this tournament won’t be a one-man show, it is a squad that needs to pull together. That is exactly what happened with Harold Vorster’s injuries and others.

    “Warren’s workrate and his calmness and inspiration are things that the players look up to, but it is time now that other players put up their hands.

    “A number of our younger players need to show they can also play at that level but we will still keep Warren with us and his words and motivation will inspire the players still, but the rest of the players need to do the job on the field.

    “We wish him a speedy and strong recovery.”

    The Lions will name their team to face the Cell C Sharks on Thursday.

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