JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An expected comeback for Warren Whiteley this weekend has been put on hold, effectively ending his chances of an international return when South Africa play Wales and England next month and opening up the Springbok captaincy.
Whiteley, 30, participated in full training this week and was expected to be in Super Rugby action for the Lions against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, hours before new national coach Rassie Erasmus is to name his squad for the June 2 international against Wales in Washington DC and three subsequent tests at home to the touring English.
It would have been a timely return, but Whiteley was left out of the Lions line-up without explanation when the team was named on Thursday.
He missed six months last year with a groin injury and has sat out most of this year with a troublesome knee injury.
Whiteley was named South Africa captain last year but was injured in the build-up to the final test of the three-match series against France last June.
He missed the entire Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, plus away tests against Ireland, France, Italy and Wales in November and December.
Eben Etzebeth took over as Springbok skipper but he, too, has not played this year, having undergone surgery on his shoulder.
Though speculation around the captaincy continues, there have been local media reports saying that Etzebeth could be named in the squad after stepping up his training regime in recent weeks.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by David Goodman