Whiteley remains optimistic about SA chances
Johannesburg - While many may still feel there hangs a cloud of doom and gloom over South African rugby after the disappointing performances of the Springboks last year, Lions captain Warren Whiteley is bucking the trend, talking about his optimism for the future both for the Lions and the Springboks.
Whiteley, who is likely to lead the Lions into battle as they look to better their final placing last season, is back from Japan and happy that the continuity in the Lions set-up will let them continue their journey that almost brought them the Super Rugby crown last season.
Whiteley believes that despite the brain drain to Europe, there is more than enough talent left in the country to keep coaches smiling, and if utilised correctly, will be enough to lift the Boks up again.
“I’m always optimistic about Springbok rugby and the amount of talent we have in this country,” Whiteley told supersport.com.
“You can go watch schoolboy games, there is so much talent in this country and the wheel keeps on turning. Yes, there are structural issues but I am confident we can resolve those and move forward.
“As coach said, they had an indaba and they took steps towards working as a collective because ultimately that is what will improve us as a rugby nation - working together.
“Coaches, players, management staff, when we are able to share ideas with each other, share ideas instead of hiding them. It can be difficult but that is what we need to do for the betterment of South African rugby. I’m very optimistic.”
Whiteley knows that the Lions are seen as the best hope for South Africa in this year’s Super Rugby competition and as such will have a target on their backs. Still, with little changing from the team last year, the Bok No 8 believes that the Lions will be well-equipped to face the challenges they face, and that their systems will cope just fine.
“I don’t feel any pressure. Our processes are simple and they stay the same. Regardless of where we finish or even what the previous result was. The process stays the same. It is a new chapter, we’ve turned that page and we’re focusing on the next game,” Whiteley said.
The loss in the final against the Hurricanes may have stunted their goals just a bit, but the Lions believe they have learnt from the experience, and now will come out stronger because of it. Still, they aren’t taking things for granted.
“It was a massive learning curve for us, the first time playing in a Super Rugby final. For the team and everyone it was a massive learning curve. We took a lot of confidence out of that, but playing in a final last year means nothing this year,” Whiteley explains.
“As coach mentioned we are starting fresh, and that is what makes it exciting. We are in a new conference, travelling to new places and as a player that is what excites you - playing against new opposition and having the opportunity to play every single weekend agains the best players in the world. That is what you are looking to do.
“We just want to stick to our processes, to what we’ve done since 2013 - keep it simple, like we always do and as coach mentioned, play for each other - that is what it is all about.”
The Lions will open their campaign against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday 25 February.
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