PRETORIA (Reuters) - New South Africa captain Warren Whiteley hopes to cap a week in which he became a father for the second time with the rebirth of a feared Springboks side and a test victory over France at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Boks are coming off their worst season in 2016, when they lost eight of their 12 tests and suffered a first home loss to Ireland, as well as a maiden defeat to Italy.
But Whiteley, whose wife Felicity gave birth to their second child, and first son Samuel, on Monday, has praised the improved build-up this season and said there would be little room for excuses for defeat to what is an under-strength French outfit.
”I could not have scripted this past week any better,“ Whiteley told reporters on Friday. ”It’s been so exciting, and I‘m just so grateful. I’ve probably said that a thousand times already.
”Everything has been going so well at training. It’s been so easy for me these past few weeks. I’ve had a lot of support, both on and off the field, and I suppose that’s the key.
“We have a massive opportunity to build something special in this team. We’ve had sufficient time to prepare going into this season. We’ve had some great training camps.”
Whiteley has praised the culture within the new-look Bok side that has five debutants in the match-day 23 and just four in the starting line-up who appeared in the 27-13 loss to Wales last November.
”It’s about becoming a family, about embracing each other as individuals, and about embracing our diversity, because we are a diverse nation and a diverse team.
”It’s been a great build-up for me, for rugby and personal reasons, and I suppose the game at Loftus will be the cherry on the cake. We need to go out there and put all we’ve done in training into practise.
”We as players are determined to put some pride back into the jersey. We’ve worked extremely hard over the past few months.
“There has been a great energy this past week and I‘m sure the public will be screaming for us on Saturday.”
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Greg Stutchbury