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Ken Borland

After his dozen years of All Blacks rugby, Whitelock knows his job

Posted on September 23, 2022 by Ken

Veteran lock Sam Whitelock has been a member of some great All Blacks teams during his dozen years of international rugby, and while New Zealand’s current slump may be confusing for many, the 33-year-old knows his job is to make sure his game is in the best possible condition in Saturday’s crunch Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

Whitelock is a totem for an All Blacks side coach Ian Foster says is still in development, and not just because of his 6’8 stature or his 135 caps. The Crusaders legend has also provided much of the smarts for the 2011 and 2015 World Cup winners, and is a proven leader.

“I’m not used to having this many losses in an All Blacks jersey, but as a senior player, the main thing is to sort myself out first. I go back to what I can control and that is my own game. I look at what I can do better. I make sure I train well so that I can play well,” Whitelock said on Friday.

“There are always things you can improve on, whether that be in terms of skills, discipline or mentality. I’ve played under some great leaders and they all sort themselves out first when things are tough.

“We’ve got to be better, there were some improvements last weekend, but also things we did not nail. There are things we have to nail down as a forward pack.

“Test rugby is all about not getting sick of nailing the basics and there were basics we did not quite get right,” Whitelock said.

Playing in Johannesburg has been kind to Whitelock, who has won four out of five Tests there as well as a Super Rugby quarterfinal and final against the Lions at Ellis Park.

“The atmosphere is electric, it’s an amazing place to play. Both teams have had some great games there, and some really tough ones too,” Whitelock said.

“I immediately think back to 2013 when the Springboks scored a couple of quick tries, but we managed to come back and win 38-27.

“There’s massive history at Ellis Park, you go back to 1995, and we understand as All Blacks what it means for South Africa to play there. But it’s also one of the places we love to play at. “Driving in, it is very loud with fans of both sides banging on the bus and saying a few things. It’s an amazing place and you want to go out there and put your best foot forward,” Whitelock said.

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