Kepu Keen to Repay Mentors with Wallabies Win
Young Australian prop Sekope Kepu is confident the Wallabies can claim an upset win over the All Blacks in their upcoming Tri-Nations Test, a victory he hopes to have a big part of repaying the faith rival Kiwi scrum coach Mike Cron has always had in him.
Kepu, 25, was born in Sydney and spent a number of years there before moving to New Zealand.
He played for the Kiwis in their Under-17, U-19 and U-21 squads from 2003 – 2006 before making his debut for the Wallabies in 2008.
Throughout his years playing for New Zealand Kepu was mentored by Mike Cron, the maestro All Blacks scrum consultant.
Australia are out to break an eight-year Bledisloe Cup drought against the Kiwis when they take to Eden Park on August 6, Kepu looking forward to returning to his old turf in Auckland.
Having matured from a “chubby” Kiwi backrower to an in-form Aussie forward, Kepu said to be a part of the first Wallabies win in New Zealand for a decade would be a career highlight.
“It was Mike (Cron) who helped convert me from a guy who was a bit chubby for a No. 8 into a prop before the final trial for the NZ Under-19s (in 2005),” Kepu said.
“I came back from that under-19s tournament after being dished up by a South African prop in the final and I wanted to sneak back to No. 8.
“I didn’t have the tools then but Steve Hansen (All Blacks forwards coach) got wind of it and the word was: ‘It’s the front row for you.’
“I had just finished school and wasn’t really looking after myself, in particular my diet.
“So I was putting on a bit of beef.
“They already saw I had the running skills but now hand the bulk to be a prop.
“That was it. From that moment I never went back to No. 8
“It’d be nice to thank them in Auckland.”
While Cron and Hansen would undoubtedly be proud of the five-Test star Kepu should the Wallabies win Saturday week, it would be a bitter-sweet sentiment as New Zealand are the raging favourites to take out the Test.
Kepu gained a lot of confidence, as did the other boys in the Wallabies squad, after Australia bounced back from an embarrassing 32 -23 loss to Samoa to defeat the Springboks last weekend.
“I was really excited for that Test but, afterwards, I battled to mentally push on and get through the loss not knowing if I’d get another shot,” Kepu said of the Samoa upset.
“We all put our hands up as a team and admitted what we lacked (against Samoa) but one win doesn’t now mean ‘no weaknesses’.
“We have to keep working.”
The game against South Africa was Kepu’s second match in nearly two months, the progressive player having been sidelined for a number of weeks after injuring his knee when playing for the Waratahs in the Super Rugby back in May.
He said his knee was now fully recovered and he felt in career best fitness ahead of Saturday’s crucial Test clash that Kepu knows he and his teammates will need to be at their top form for.
“The All Blacks have almost a flawless scrum with their talent on the park so we have to take another step up after that good turnaround in attitude (against the Springboks),” he said.
Along with Kepu, fellow Wallabies front rowers Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander are looking to put their World Cup recall beyond doubt with a big game against New Zealand.
“Growing up in New Zealand, you dream of being an All Black,” Kepu admitted.
“If I get selected against them….would be massive, but to play them at a ground so special as Eden Park would be incredible.
“I still have a lot of family over there….but they all now support Australia.
“Looks as if I’ll have to round up some tickets for them.”