The Lions have been installed as third favourites to win the 2017 Super Rugby title after winning 11 of 12 games to head the South African group standings.
They are the only South African team in the bookies’ top five, along with four from New Zealand and no representatives from Australia. The Lions have been in superb form and Allister Coetzee hopes to spark a similar revival for South Africa by naming Lions number eight Warren Whiteley as his new captain.
“I made up my mind a long time ago that Warren should be captain, he was the logical choice because in a tough season last year, he captained the team anyway whenever Adriaan Strauss was not on the field,” he said.
“When you look at the characteristics of a captain, how a Springbok captain looks, then it is not a difficult decision. Warren understands captaincy both on the field and off it, and it’s a big challenge being Springbok captain because we live in a unique land with unique questions.
“But Warren has been on quite a rough road in his career, he knows resilience. Warren brings out the best in people. But most importantly he has been playing good rugby, he was first of all selected as a consistent performer, the best eighthman in the country. He will glue a young Springbok side together.”
Whitely has not only proven himself as a leader, but also as the best local number eight in Super Rugby at present, so it seems a sensible choice. He will garner respect from teammates and also from opponents, and fans can now look forward to the impending series against France with a bit more confidence.
The Springboks suffered a miserable end to last year, losing their final three games at the hands of Wales, Italy and England. Wales are a pretty good side and England were exceptional last year, but the defeat to Italy would have stung. In total South Africa lost eight of 12 games in 2016, making it the worst year in their history.