He lauded his team’s character after coming from behind to shock the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby opener on Saturday.
After being written off by just about everybody the Lions snatched a late 21-20 win through a 78th-minute drop-goal by Lions Man-of-the-Match flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who also converted six penalties.
The Lions, who trailed 10-9 at halftime, laid the platform in the scrums where they had the more fancied Cheetahs pack on the back foot, with props Schalk van der Merwe and Julian Redelinghuys applying huge pressure on their opponents.
“After the first half we realised we needed to play more in their half and put more pressure on their tight phases,” said Whiteley.
“It’s exactly the way we wanted to started the competition but now the Stormers will provide the next big challenge this weekend,” he said.
Apart from the opening quarter when Boshoff gave the Lions a 3-0 lead by the 16th minute, the home side led the game until the final two minutes.
Earlier, Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen fluffed his first two penalty attempts, while his replacement Elgar Watts missed a sitter of a penalty in the 75th minute.
Goosen, who stayed down three times after contact, left the field in the 68th minute after suffering an arm injury.
The Cheetahs scored the only two tries of the game by their wingers, through Raymond Rhule in the 23rd minute and by debutant Cornal Hendricks in the 50th minute to lead by 17-9.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske lamented his side’s approach to spread the ball when it wasn’t always on.
“The one-point lead at the break wasn’t enough, I wanted us to be more conservative in the second half and earn the right to go wide and stay in the structures,” he said.