Filling some big boots
Thu, 28 Mar 2013 14:17
It is a great chance for our team to show that we are not about individuals
With Kieran Read and Dan Carter out of the reckoning the Crusaders have given the leadership reins to the oldest of the four Whitelock brothers in their squad.
George Whitelock will lead the seven-time champions out for the first time at Newlands on Saturday against the Stormers, and although there are a few senior players missing he is confident that the team will be able to take the challenge in their stride.
"There will be a lot of talk this week about Kieran [Read] being injured and Dan [Carter] staying at home, but that is the strength of the Crusaders we pride ourselves on that whole squad ethic and it is no different this Saturday.
"It is a huge challenge, Newlands is one of the great stadiums so we are under no illusion that it is going to be easy. But at the same time there is a lot of belief in our squad and it is probably going to come down to the wire," he said.
With his youngest brother Luke packing down next to him in Read's place at No.8, Whitelock knows that his role at the breakdown will be key against a physical Stormers side, and he is keen to lead by example on Saturday.
"It [breakdown] is probably where the game is going to be won and lost, both teams have been going well there in the last couple of weeks so it is going to be a helluva fight in terms of winning your ball and searching for those scraps," he said.
One person who is expecting Whitelock to step up under pressure is his coach Todd Blackadder who was quick to point out just how much experience the 27-year-old flank already has under his belt.
"George has won the ITM Cup five years in a row, he is highly experienced and he has really matured into the role. He was named as vice-captain along with Ryan Crotty at the start of the season and their role was to really support Reado.
"It is an opportunity that has come around earlier than we all expected but he is a seasoned professional, he has got a good head on him so I think he will do a great job.
"The guys really respect him so it is a good chance for him to lead, and it is a great chance for our team to show that we are not about individuals, it is more about the collective unity of a focused performance, so it is a good opportunity," he explained.
Whitelock's experience of leading Canterbury in the National Provincial Championships means that he is used to the pressure associated with the role, and having two of his brothers next to him and another one on the bench may also help settle his nerves on the big occasion.
Blackadder believes that the solid grounding the four brothers got was crucial in seeing them all crack it in professional rugby.
"They are all from a farming background, from a good family, they have good manners, a good work ethic and they don't like coming second in anything.
"It is really easy for their parents to go and watch them all play footy because they just go to the one game," he quipped.
By Michael de Vries
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