Whitelock expects All Blacks questions after final win

rugby25 June 2023 05:50| © AFP
Sam Whitelock © Gallo Images

Sam Whitelock expects to have some explaining to do to All Blacks coach Ian Foster after helping the Crusaders win the Super Rugby Pacific final despite an ankle knock.

Whitelock conceded he won't have endeared himself to All Blacks management by playing the full 80 minutes on a tender Achilles tendon as the Crusaders beat the Chiefs 25-20 in Hamilton on Saturday.

The 34-year-old said it was worth it to win silverware in a final that ended his 14-season, 181-match stint at the Crusaders before joining French club Pau after the Rugby World Cup.

Last week, All Blacks coach Foster had predicted Whitelock would miss the final based on what he knew of the injury.

Whitelock anticipates a few awkward conversations when the All Blacks gather next week before their opening Rugby Championship match away to Argentina on 8 July.

"The body is definitely sore, I think I'll be in a bit of trouble with All Blacks management, but it's so good to sign off for a number of guys who have had massive careers with the Crusaders," Whitelock told reporters.

Playmaker Richie Mo'unga and winger Leicester Fainga'anuku also played their last game for the Crusaders after signing with overseas clubs.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson piled praise on Whitelock, who was playing a record 24th Super Rugby playoff match, moving ahead of ex-teammate and former All Blacks great Richie McCaw.

Whitelock has 143 test caps and could eclipse McCaw's national record tally of 148 in his swansong at the Rugby World Cup in France.

"We think he's an immortal in the game," Robertson said of Whitelock.

"He's a god-like figure with what he's done. The amount of games he's played, when he was captain, year after year, he rises up every day.

"In his mind, he was always going to play, it was his Achilles that was going to say 'no'. The doc said 'no' but it's the way he is with his mindset."

Whitelock earned man of the match honours for the second straight Super Rugby final, having also been a key figure when they toppled the Blues a year ago.