Whiteley - Super Rugby 2019 will be close

Getty Images

Saturday, January 19, 2019    Getty Images

He was excited by the fact there would be little to choose between the four South African franchises.


Whiteley told Johannesburg's Saturday Star that in each of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand there were players who would have the World Cup as their goal.

"And if you look at the four local franchises, look at their team sheets, you'll see how many classy players there are and how competitive it's going to be between those teams.

"Everyone is looking for a World Cup spot. And, to get into that team you've got to earn it by playing well for your franchise, you've got to contribute…and then you'll be rewarded," he said.

With three consecutive finals appearances the Lions still shaped as the best of the South African sides but the Sharks were set to build on their Currie Cup win while the Bulls had a revamped coaching unit and some key new acquisitions.

One of those will see Whiteley go head-to-head with returning No.8 Duane Vermeulen for the Springbok role.

But Whiteley said Vermeulen wouldn't change his motivation because it was always high.

"I played against him just a few years ago when he was at the Stormers too, so I've gone up against him before. It's going to be no different now. I have lots of respect for Duane, but I'm always going to be motivated," he said.

There was a great opportunity for some young Lions players, and in other sides, to make a name for themselves.

"We've lost some fantastic players here at the Lions in recent times [Faf de Klerk, Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert], but we've also got some great youngsters coming through the system. And they've got a chance now to show what they can do.

"On a national level, a year ago, no one knew Aphiwe Dyantyi or Sbu Nkosi…and look where they are now. They had a wonderful 2018 for the Boks…and there will be young players out there thinking they can be the next Aphiwe, thinking if they play well in Super Rugby they'll have a chance of going to the World Cup.

"And we know that Springbok coach Rassie [Erasmus] is the type of coach who rewards hard work and form and he's shown he's prepared to give someone a chance if they stick up their hand," he said.