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One last shot at rugby for Warren Whiteley

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Former Springbok captain Warren Whiteley hasn’t played rugby since early last year following an umpteenth knee injury and he has since turned his focus to coaching at the Lions. But he is hopeful that one more operation may change his fortunes.

Warren Whiteley is hoping that he will be able to play rugby again. Pictureo: Chris Kotze, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Former Springbok captain Warren Whiteley is likely to go under the knife again at the end of this year to give himself one more shot at possibly playing rugby again.

The 32-year-old loose-forward hasn’t played rugby since early last year following an umpteenth knee injury and he has since turned his focus to coaching at the Lions. But Whiteley is hopeful that one more operation may change his fortunes.

“I’ve seen doctors up here, I’ve seen a doctor in Durban and most recently I’ve been in contact with a surgeon in Cape Town, who’s likely to do the operation,” said Whiteley yesterday.

“I’ve spoken to as many doctors as possible to get different opinions and they’re all in agreement. If I’m to get better and if the knee is to heal properly I have to have another operation.”

Whiteley has suffered with the cartilage issue in his left knee since early 2019 and had hoped time, some physical rehabilitation work and rest would help the injury to heal. It hasn’t happened.

“I’ve tried to avoid this specific operation because I know it’s going to be a long healing process; up to a year, and maybe even longer. I’m going to have to be on crutches for a while and I don’t want to be on crutches when rugby starts up again. It’s the reason why I’m considering doing the operation at the end of the year during the team’s pre-season.”

Warren Whiteley has battled with injuries throughout his career. Picture: Themba Hadebe, AP

Only then, once Whiteley has fully healed, will he make a decision about his future. “There’s constant pain and it won’t get better without surgery. My history with knee injuries doesn’t help, so it’s going to be a complicated thing to have to deal with.

“I’ll see what happens over time, but before I get to make any decision about playing, I want to first be able to play with my kids in the backyard and not feel pain. I want to play hockey, netball and rugby, I want to sprint and run with my kids; that’s the first thing I want to get out of the surgery. What happens after that can be decided at a later stage.”

For now, Whiteley is focused on his new coaching gig at the Lions, something he said he “absolutely loves”. Since temporarily giving up playing, the former Lions captain has taken charge, among other things, of the Lions’ forwards and lineout.

“I’m 100% focused on the coaching right now. I absolutely love it. I’m learning every day and am so excited about what this Lions team may do when we start playing again.”

When that will be no-one knows. SA Rugby are hoping to stage a domestic competition in the latter stages of this year, but no dates or plans have been announced.

“It’s been tough for the players and coaches; not knowing when something will happen, what type of competition we’ll play in; now and even next year. But, we’ve told the players they must focus solely on those things they can control; they must forget about the unknowns.

“We’ve done so much work in the last few weeks. What we’ve said to the players is they must simply be ready for the next step in this process; whatever that might be. But, we certainly need some kind of competition to take place now.

“Everyone is itching to get out there, so hopefully something will happen soon. And I’m sure that whatever competition it is, it’ll be good and exciting; a competition full of quality rugby.”

@jacq_west