Lions coach Johan Ackermann said however Whiteley, even though not making the squad, remains a fully comitted player, whether it is for the Lions, the Boks or the Sevens.
“Warren is a straight, simple guy and when he commits to something he is 110% in it, same thing with the Lions jersey, we know we have his heart and his mind in it, and I think if you put him in a Bok jersey they’ll get even more, and if he goes to Sevens he’ll be totally committed there as well.
“So there’s no doubt he wanted to be part of the rest of the campaign, and if the call-up comes through the World Cup, he’ll be ready, but he’s not sulking and he is not down, he is ready either for the Boks or for the Lions in the Currie Cup.
“Warren looked energised and excited like he always is, he was running the whole field full and obviously being experienced, in my planning was to rest some players this week, like Ross Cronje and Sous (Franco Mostert) and Courtnall Skosan, so he would have helped a lot on the experienced side, but there’s still leaders in the group.”
And even though the naming of Howard Mnisi as skipper was a late one, Ackermann believed it’s the right one.
“Howard Mnisi has shown us he can lead the backs, he is also been a player that can play 80 minutes the whole season so we are confident that he can lead the side, and be on the field till the end.
“So it’s great to have him as a captain, we haven’t played a game this year with Warren as a captain so it hasn’t been too disruptive, but it is a late change and suddenly Jano had to come back from the U21s and he had to catch up with a little bit of detail but he was with us last week so he is familiar with the surroundings.
“Hopefully he won’t be out too long because a calf can be a bit of a problem, so we’ll know that by Friday as it just happened Thursday, while there’s a good chance Jaco Kriel will be ready next weekend.”
While other sides will benefit more than the Lions with returning Boks, Ackermann said it will give the competition a boost.
“Sides will benefit if you think about the Bulls, they get Marcel van der Merwe and Jan Serfontein back, in areas where they are already good in, they have Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger both Boks, so they get another Bok back, they get Jan back a Bok centre while they are already performing well in midfield.
“So it strengthens them, so will Steven Kitshoff strengthen Province and Cobus Reinach at the Sharks, it will definitely lift the morale of the side, but at then of the day it is a 15 or 22 man effort, and as long as we back our team and our systems we’ll do well.”
Ackermann also said they have taken notice of the EP Kings money problems but they have to focus on their own agenda.
“We obviously symptomize with what is going on there, it’s not easy for any rugby player, but the reality is we can’t read too much into it, we have to play this weekend and on the field we must do the business.
“Off the field we can show our sympathies but on the field it’s a game we have to win, and I said to the players I expect nothing less than their best attitude on Saturday regardless of the rumours how they prepared.”
The Lions had people raving with their ‘running maul’ last weekend in Nelspruit but Ackermann said it doesn’t mean it will work every time.
“We have been training the rolling maul for quite a while now, but in any maul a lot of things have to fall in place to make it work, it was one of those that you don’t often get but it’s like the hole in one in golf, when everything falls in place.
“I think you would expect that closer to the tryline so obviously the guys did very well from the 22, so itwas a good moment but you can’t hop on about that, we’ll have to be accurate this weekend again.”