“It is a massive honour to represent my country and definitely an opportunity to start at No. 8, which is fantastic. My previous test, I played at blindside flank, so it’s a great chance for me, and I am excited to be part of the group again. “I am learning every single day, massive honour, and I am really looking forward to it.” Whiteley said being captain at the Lions has helped him grow.
“The last two years at the Lions have been fantastic, and I’ve really learned a lot, there have been ups and downs. I have learned a lot of lessons, not only as an individual but also with that group, a young squad, so I feel I have definitely grown also as a leader, and hopefully I can just go forward and contribute, especially this weekend.
“It’s exciting to see guys like Franco Mostert, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Faf de Klerk from the Lions here. It’s always nice getting guys from your own union, working hard, and hopefully in the future we can even have a couple more guys here, and I believe there are a couple of guys who put their hands up during Super Rugby.
“I’ve always enjoyed working hard. I think here at the Boks I really learned a lot the last year that I have been involved with the squad, I just want to contribute. I think I have just played about 33 minutes of Test Match rugby, and this isn’t a test but a great opportunity.”
But he feels he is still fairly new in the Bok system. “I want to get used to the running lines and get to know the Bok gameplan a bit better.
“Vic (Victor Matfield) is a great leader, and there are so many leaders in the side. I’m learning every single game from them, and it’s only going to make me better as a player and a person, and hopefully I can even grow more in the next couple of weeks, and learn from players like that.
“I think as players we are all leaders in our own right. You first must be a leader before you can become a follower.” For a change, Whiteley can only focus on his game and not on the captaincy.
“I know what my job is here and what I need to do and add towards that and to tap off the experience of the more senior players, and the great leaders who are here, and to become a better leader myself.
“I think the World XV are always going to play an attacking brand of rugby, they are going to take any opportunity that comes their way, especially on turnover ball. For us the most important thing is to stick to our processes, keep the ball in hand, because they will thrive on any spilled ball, but we and I will just focus on what needs to be done.” With his two loose trio partners Marcell Coetzee and Francois Louw not regarded as big lineout exponents, Whiteley is expected to run the tail of the lineout.
“Lineouts have always been important for me as a player, I have always enjoyed it, competing and securing my own ball, I really would like to play my part there. It’s part of my job this weekend, hopefully I can disrupt a little bit, and steal a few balls.
“How we are coached at the Boks is that if an opportunity is on we’ll take it. I want to be better, not really establish myself, just to add and contribute to the side. You can’t replace a player like Duane (Vermeulen), so I have been encouraged to play my natural game and do the things that I’m used to.” He still nurtures the dream of going with the Sevens Boks to the Olympics in 2016.
“The Sevens Olympics is a tough one. It’s definitely a dream of mine to go there. I’ve been talking to coach Neil (Powell) and I am not sure exactly how it’s going to work. I am just looking forward to next year. It’s going to be a tough decision to make next year because you never quite know what’s going to happen in the future or Super Rugby obviously being part of the Lions and being the captain, it will make it tricky. I almost want to wait until that moment comes before I make a decision, but it’s definitely something I want to be part of and a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Whiteley said it would be tough to compare him to the injured Vermeulen, “I am not going to try and fill Duane’s shoes. It’s almost impossible; he is such an unique player; the last two years he was probably one of the best two No 8s in world rugby, so for me it’s just important to play my own natural game, which I am comfortable with, and just to do my job on the field.