Mallett questions whether Lions are missing Whiteley

Cape Town - They comfortably dispatched the Sharks in Durban at the weekend, but former Springbok coach Nick Mallett was not happy with the quality of rugby on display.

The Lions won 27-10 to seal top spot on the overall Super Rugby log and ensured that they will again face the Sharks in next week’s quarter-finals - but this time at their home Ellis Park fortress.

“It was a frustrating game in that there were so many handling errors and one has to question whether this happens because it is Durban. In almost every game we’ve seen at Kings Park, the Sharks and their opposition end up knocking on more ball than we’ve seen in most other matches. The scrums were incredibly messy with a lot of collapses and penalties,” Mallett said in the SuperSport studio afterwards.

The Lions had no trouble dispatching a listless Sharks outfit, who knew that had they won they would have faced a daunting trip to Christchurch to face the Crusaders.

But the Lions’ performance was not one of a team that is being tipped to win the tournament and Mallett questioned whether the absence of injured skipper Warren Whiteley may have played a part.

“Perhaps the Lions are missing Warren Whiteley’s calm captaincy. He has the ability to keep things nice and settled in that side and to calm people down if there’s a little bit of a fluster in the scrummage or around the lineout situation, and also in terms of defence and taking decisions of when to kick for touch and when to go for goal. It’s not that Jaco Kriel isn’t a great player and an inspirational leader, but they are just missing Whiteley’s ability to make everyone feel comfortable,” Mallett said.

Whiteley, the Springbok captain, is sidelined with a pelvic injury and unavailable for the remainder of the Super Rugby competition.

Super Rugby quarter-finals:

Friday, July 21

Brumbies v Hurricanes, Canberra - 11:35 (SA time)

Saturday, July 22

Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch - 09:35 (SA time)

Lions v Sharks, Johannesburg - 14:30

Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 17:00