Whiteley Needs the Chop

Opinion Piece:  Warren Whiteley Needs the chop

If Rassie Erasmus is as committed to changing Springbok fortunes in the short term as he is over a prolonged period, then he should perhaps reconsider opting to select Warren Whiteley in his starting XV in the weeks and months ahead, writes Shaun Goosen.

With the All Blacks Test just a few days away, and following consecutive losses to Argentina and Australia, Erasmus is quite rightly under fire.

While his side’s 2-1 series victory over England remains an impressive feat, those subsequent losses have now heaped enormous pressure on the 45-year-old to get results immediately and in the lead up to next year’s World Cup.

His selection policies, which have been mostly on the mark until this point, are now being heavily scrutinized in the country, not least the make up of his pack of forwards.

While Siya Kolisi’s men remain a work in progress, the importance of redeveloping a winning culture should remain top priority. There should always be time invested to introduce new talent and build winning results, but, after a year which has already seen the Boks lose four times in seven Tests, it is time to make some tough decisions.

In the short term, it is a wonder just why Erasmus continues to rate Whiteley so highly. The eighth-man may be pacey and workmanlike, but there is hardly a case for his continued inclusion in the run-on XV.

In spite of the obvious leadership traits he possesses, the Lions skipper has looked awkward with ball in hand, while his lack of impact in the wider channels was snuffed out by both the Pumas and Wallabies.

At 30-years-old and with just 20-Tests to his name though, his selection is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. It would seem that Whiteley fans’ only validation for his continued presence in the national setup is his captaincy credentials.

The Bok forwards were bullied by both the Argentine's and Australians in recent weeks. If Erasmus – whose future appears to have come into question this week – is as serious about turning results around as he claims to be, he needs to start making the tough calls. Could Whiteley really offer the same raw influence like a youthful Ruan Ackermann?

The balance of Erasmus’ loose trio remains a cause for concern. The robust Jean-Luc du Preez has been ruled out for an extended period, while Duane Vermeulen remains unavailable. Francois Louw has been recalled to bring some calm to the Bok camp, but he too has been under performing.

Skipper Kolisi should always be the number one option at six (with hooker Malcolm Marx acting as the hybrid-fetcher option in the side), and with the likes of Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, and even Ackermann having proven their worth in the back row, one (or all) of these three should be given a shot to beef up the back row.

With Eben Etzebeth, Mostert, du Toit, RG Snyman and even the injured Lood de Jager set to be in the fold ahead of the showpiece in Japan, the Boks certainly do not lack for versatility in their second row options.

Whiteley weighs in at just under 100kg. Every other loose forward-option on this list weighs more. Such small details matter in Test match rugby.

When Kolisi, du Toit, Mostert, du Preez and Vermeulen are fit, it seems a waste to place the spirited Whiteley in their bracket. He does not have the ability to impact a Test in the same manner of his colleagues.

While there may be a case for bringing him off the bench when a game opens up late on, the fact remains that his track record in internationals isn’t as decorated as some make out.

If he can’t impact a Test against Argentina and a modern-day Australia, how, would he deal with the likes of Ireland and the All Blacks?

My gut feel is that we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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