Warren Whiteley on why rugby has made him a better person

Captain fantastic talks about his game plan on and off the field

25 June 2017 - 00:02 By LIAM DEL CARME

It's been few weeks, but has being Springbok captain lived up to your expectations?
It's not exactly the same but we were in a similar sort of position at the Lions. We also got Professor Pieter Kruger [psychologist] in. I already have that experience. Captaincy has never been something I've feared. It is something I love and embrace... to go through those processes that helped create a team culture. That put me at ease because I have been leading the Lions for a number of years.
In establishing team culture, has it helped having some familiar faces around?
Look, we are trying to establish our own culture. It won't be the Lions' culture. It will be the Springboks' culture. It has helped having provincial teammates but then you have guys like Beast [Mtawarira] and Frans [Steyn] who have been through it all. They can add so much value having been part of a side that won a World Cup and a series against the British and Irish Lions.
Can you give us an idea of what your team culture is about?
For us, we want to be more than just a rugby team. More than just the 80 minutes on the field. We want to inspire people through our actions on and off the field. We want to bring smiles to people's faces. We want to be ambassadors for our country. We want to pride ourselves on that. There are smaller details but that is what we want. We want to have a bigger purpose. It is not just about winning.
Is it easier to try and establish that culture coming off a low base?
The majority of this group went through a tough 2016. We can use those experiences to our advantage by not falling into those habits. We know where we were last year and where we are now. Having that knowledge makes you appreciate where we are now. It's early days, it's only been two tests [this interview was done before yesterday's third and final test] but we want to kick on from here.You recently had your second child. How have you balanced it all?
With a lot of support. I'm fortunate to have the help of friends and family. The mother-in-law is here at the moment, helping my wife. Having a second child has changed a lot. If you have just one kid, you can almost get away with not planning. But we've seen in the last three weeks, you literally have to plan. My wife's been supporting me in everything. I met her when she was 20 and I was playing club rugby at Collegians. She's been there through everything and she's got my back.
Who have helped build your capacity as captain?
So many people have played a role. Over the last few years, however, coach Johan Ackermann has played a massive role in my life. He has instilled characteristics in all of us. Obviously also my dad and my mom. Spiritually, a guy like Deon van Rensburg who used to play for the Lions is someone I can lean on. A guy like Cobus Grobbelaar also made an impression when I got to the Lions. He had something about him. He was quiet, calm and humble and worked really hard. Also Wikus van Heerden, who was the first person I roomed with in Super Rugby. I'll never forget walking into the room and he had a massive picture of his family next to his bed.
Then there was Josh Strauss, who was very relaxed. Nothing fazed him. And then there was Jean de Villiers, who had a playful relationship with his teammates.

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