Swys: Having Whiteley fit for Boks the priority
Cape Town - The Lions will not rush skipper Warren Whiteley back into action and having him ready for the Springboks' three-Test series against England in June is the priority.
That is the view of Lions coach Swys de Bruin, who was speaking after his side's clinical 29-0 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.
It was the first of four matches for the Lions on their Australasian tour - they play the Reds, Hurricanes and Highlanders over the next three weeks - and the win solidified their position on top of the South African Conference.
Whiteley, who has been battling a knee injury this year, was originally named in the touring squad to Australia and was expected to make his comeback against the Waratahs.
He re-injured the knee in training on Monday, however, and was a late withdrawal as he visited an orthopaedic surgeon in Johannesburg.
There is still hope that Whiteley will join up with the Lions during their tour, but De Bruin could not confirm that on Friday.
"I wish I could work that one out because he's ready and then he's not ... it's one of those," he said of Whiteley's latest setback.
"The MRI and every scan shows that he's fine and then there will be a bit of a niggle.
"Our doctor spoke to the specialist yesterday and it's looking positive."
De Bruin acknowledged that having Whiteley fit for the Springboks was imperative, especially given the possibility of him being named Rassie Erasmus's first captain.
"We won't be in a rush to throw him in at the deep end. We'll see how it goes," said De Bruin.
"He's still a Springbok and he's got a good chance to lead the national team and that's the priority still."
De Bruin credited team doctor Rob Collins for the role he played in the Waratahs win.
It was Collins who suggested the Lions leave Johannesburg on Wednesday for their Friday clash in an attempt to minimise the impact of changing time zones.
"They're really now still in South African time," De Bruin said of his charges after the match.
"This was the first time we tried it (traveling so late). We felt in Argentina that when you fly in on the Wednesday and play on the Friday or Saturday, you can manage it.
"You have everything later ... breakfast and everything. Credit to our medical team and the conditioners for coming up with a great plan."
The Lions take on the Reds in Brisbane next Saturday at 07:05 SA time.