Having a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of certain Super Rugby teams is far from ideal and Lions captain Warren Whiteley sympathises with that.
The Lions, South Africa’s pace-setters in the competition, closed out an unbeaten tour of Australia with a victory over the Brumbies at the weekend.
After returning home, they were gearing up to face the embattled Bulls, lying sixth in the SA Group, at Ellis Park on Saturday.
In regular contact with other local players over the fact that two teams would be cut in the next few months, Whiteley said it had brought back memories of 2013, when the Lions were banished out of Super Rugby.
“It is difficult and we have been in the same situation. For us as players we know someone is going to miss out, and that is never nice,” Whiteley said.
While the Kings and the Cheetahs were the two teams in the firing line, there was no guarantee that the other squads were safe from being cut.
“We know a lot of guys at different unions and there is uncertainty, but for us we need to focus on performing well. We can only control the controllables,” Whiteley said.
After struggling to beat the Brumbies 13-6 in Canberra on Friday, Whiteley felt the runaway try by flank Kwagga Smith had been the only real difference between the sides.
“There was only one Brumbies mistake out there and we managed to get it in the right guy’s hands,” the skipper said.
“He is a Sevens specialist and he just gassed it, and it was just lucky for us.”
Whiteley admitted they had been forced to dig deep and rely on the team’s character to grind out an eighth consecutive win, keeping them on track for a home playoff.
“We knew it was going to be a physical battle and a game of inches, so I’m extremely proud to have toured and finished like that, but credit to them, it was tough out there.
“It’s a testimony to the grit of the side. We stayed calm and were really exceptional on defence.”