| Time to reflect a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Lions’ Whiteley

Lions assistant coach Warren Whiteley believes the enforced break in rugby thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise for his team, especially as it has allowed them to take stock of their game plan during a tough Super Rugby season.

Whiteley has only been in the coaching seat for a few months as the lineout coach for the Lions, but the team’s poor start to this year’s Super Rugby tournament has given him a rough ride into the coaching realm after a very successful playing career.

Whiteley agrees that it has been a challenge and that the Lions’ approach didn’t work in the opening seven weeks of Super Rugby this year. The team have spent a lot of time reflecting on that.

“It has been challenging but I really didn’t expect anything less coming into this coaching role. Having played for a number of years you go through the highs and lows. Yes there is a big difference between player and coach, but you do go through those highs and lows as a player as well,” Whiteley explained.

“But the most difficult part as a coach is letting go and knowing that there is only so much you can do. Knowing on the weekend it is up to the boys and you have to let go. That has probably been the biggest challenge for me is to realise that on match day it is up to them.

“There have been a lot of lessons learnt as a coaching group and as a player group and we can go forward now. This might be a blessing in disguise so we can use this time to look at what we are doing at the moment and tweak here and there. Obviously what we have done in the past seven weeks hasn’t quite worked or been good enough. We definitely have to find solutions and as a coaching group we are looking at that, debating it and discussing it and looking for solutions.”

While some of the attacking performances weren’t on par, the defensive lapses have cost the Lions points this season and will be a key focus area when they return to the training field.

“That is the nature of Super Rugby. The margins are so small. That is the great thing of being involved in this competition. You get challenged every single week and there are teams that are analysing you as well as you are analysing them. That is the challenge and the exciting part of the competition. It pushes you to be better every week and I’ve enjoyed that.

“There has been various things – defence is something we have spoken about extensively and coach Shaun (Erasmus) has worked hard on. The guys have probably tried to implement a bit of a rush defence and we haven’t been as accurate as we could have been in the wider channels especially. We have let a couple passes go, too many in the wider channels and that has been where we have been exploited. It is something we want to improve in whatever competition we go into next.

“But there are also other areas – on attack we have spoken extensively on getting back to our principles and focusing on them again. Neil (de Bruin) has done some fantastic work there and done some reflection. I can’t tell you how many opportunities we had five metres from the opposition tryline and we didn’t manage to execute. We did get ample opportunities.

“Across the board we have had good time to reflect and look at our departments, but also as a whole. It is important to look at it holistically because we are interlinked. We have had some good discussions. We have had good time to reflect. We can come to conclusions and hit the ground running as soon as we get back.”

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