Whiteley not at optimum fitness, but can go 80 minutes
Johannesburg - Warren Whiteley will make his first Super Rugby appearance since March 10 when the Lions take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
The Lions captain returns after a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury, and if he gets through the clash unscathed it will be good news for the Springboks and their coach Rassie Erasmus.
Duane Vermeulen, who was immense for South Africa throughout their 2-1 series win over England, is unavailable for the Rugby Championship and Erasmus will have to field a new No 8 for that competition.
Whiteley, who was heavily tipped to be Erasmus' Bok captain, would be the logical replacement for Vermeulen even if they are different types of players.
Whiteley made his return to action in Sunday's 47-29 SuperSport Challenge win over the Blue Bulls, and Lions conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen is confident that the 30-year-old is ready to go 80 minutes of required.
"We were pleased to see him come through 60 minutes in the SuperSport Challenge," Van Rooyen said.
"Warren is naturally fit and strong. If you talk about his optimal condition, he is probably three weeks away. But, is he good enough to play 80 minutes? Yes."
Van Rooyen added that Whiteley would not have made himself available for selection had he not been fit enough.
"Warren has been working hard and he is ready to play," said Van Rooyen.
"One thing about Warren is that he is a true professional so if he is not ready to play and give 100% for the team, then he won't play. Those 60 minutes were massive for him and for us."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:15.
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Phillip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19, Lourens Erasmus, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Courtnall Skosan