Lions giants Whiteley and Marx ease into action against Blue Bulls
Warren Whiteley‚ the national captain before he became injured‚ and Malcolm Marx‚ one of the most influential hookers on the planet before he tore a hamstring‚ will walk into a very different Springbok set-up when they return in the Rugby Championships in August.
Whiteley and Marx‚ having recovered from injury‚ are available for selection for the Golden Lions XV’s SuperSport Challenge clash against the Blue Bulls at Loftus this weekend.
Both were Springbok first-choice selections when injury came knocking‚ but the winds of change have gusted with intent under new coach Rassie Erasmus. That does not mean Erasmus does not have the highest regard for the pair‚ but the old saying about being out of sight remains one of professional sport’s enduring truisms.
Whiteley’s last Test was a year ago when the Boks clashed with France in Durban — and when groin-and abdominal-related injuries brought a halt to his season. The Boks had made a bright start to the season in the first two Tests‚ and with him at the helm, who knows whether the team’s season might have taken a different course.
He regained fitness for Super Rugby and was returning to form when he injured a cruciate knee ligament in the Lions’ defeat to the Blues at Ellis Park on March 10. The Lions’ season has gone backwards since.
With Whiteley unavailable for the June Bok Tests‚ Erasmus was keen to see what Duane Vermeulen had left in the tank after three brutal seasons playing for Toulon.
Vermeulen‚ perhaps predictably‚ was up to the challenge and his impact in the series was immense. The No8’s availability to the Bok cause for the Rugby Championships and the remainder of the season, however‚ is in doubt as he ties himself to a new club deal.
That may help smooth Whiteley’s passage back into the starting team.
Marx last played for the Boks in the last match of their end-of-year tour against Wales in 2017.
He made a storming start to the Lions’ Super Rugby season before he had to yield to a high-grade hamstring tendon tear in the Lions’ defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington in the first week of May.
The prognosis put his recovery time at six weeks and in his absence Bongi Mbonambi has steadily grown into his role in the middle of the scrum after also recovering from injury in Super Rugby. Mbonambi has warmed to his starting role‚ but Marx will soon be champing at the bit.