JOHANNESBURG – The Lions will head to Australia tomorrow hoping the next three weeks will prove to be a turning point for the good this season.
They’ll also hope that regular captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley is part of that tour party.
Following their 42-5 defeat by the Sharks at Ellis Park on Friday night, the Lions are in desperate need of a lift right now and it will be hoped that Whiteley can help get the team back on track. The inspirational leader hasn’t played since Round 2 when he picked up a chest injury, but it is believed he will board the plane with his teammates tomorrow.
The Lions are scheduled to face the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders on tour – three massively challenging matches – and how they could do with Whiteley being back in the team and leading it.
Since picking up his injury, the Lions have used Kwagga Smith (who is now injured and out of the tour), Hacjivah Dayimani and Ruan Vermaak at No 8, and hooker Malcolm Marx has captained the side.
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) April 5, 2019
But the Lions have had to endure a rocky ride since Whiteley cried off against the Stormers in round two.
They lost that match, got hammered by the Bulls a week later, and while they beat the Jaguares without too much of a hiccup, they struggled to get the better of the Rebels and also didn’t wholly convince against the Sunwolves. And then, after their bye, they got pumped by the Sharks.
Coach Swys de Bruin admitted he and his management team would have to look at the leadership of the team.
“I don’t know why we’re starting so poorly,” he said. “I’m going to have to sit down with the management team and have a look at the leadership group. It’s been disappointing.”
If Whiteley is fit, he will certainly move straight back into the team and take over the captaincy.
Indications are though he may only be back for the second game on tour, against the Chiefs next weekend.
Either way, De Bruin and Co have to find answers for their poor performance against the Sharks very quickly. They were out-played in every department and bar the late try they scored through replacement back Sylvian Mahuza, they didn’t look like troubling the scorers before then.
They were especially beaten up in the forwards, but a return by Whiteley and the availability again of Cyle Brink, who would have now shaken off the rust, will hopefully bolster De Bruin’s men in the coming weeks.
Also, as De Bruin stated after the defeat on Friday, his players will have to stand up now and fight.
“It’s not only about winning and losing. I’m here for the effort, the character and the guts … and I didn’t see any of that tonight (Friday).
“I’ve lost before, and I will lose again, but I don’t want to see that the guys not put in an effort.”