Kepu front and centre for Super Rugby milestone

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sekope Kepu will be front and centre at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, when the Waratahs meet the Brumbies.

Kepu will be playing his 100th game for the Waratahs, a team he has played all his Super Rugby with since moving to Australia in 2008.

The 31-year-old still remembers the very first day he walked into Waratahs HQ, after making the leap of faith to follow his rugby dream in Australia.

“You grow up and the ultimate dream was to play rugby as a professional sport, full-time and I still remember coming over and walking in through these corridors and seeing guys that I watched growing up, the Lote Tuqiris, Phil Waughs, the late Dan Vickerman,” he said.

Sekope Kepu is buzzing ahead of the 2017 season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“It was a very overwhelming experience. To be here, for a long time now it’s just a massive, massive privilege and something I never want to take for granted.”

While many players take a public ‘business as usual’ approach to milestones, Kepu admitted the 100-game landmark was more significant.

“I came over with a dream to get one cap for New South Wales and to play 100 on Saturday is certainly something that is still...it’s a humbling experience.”

Kepu will be one of three Waratahs to notch a Super Rugby century on Saturday, along with Michael Hooper and Nick Phipps, but the only to have played all 100 with the Sydney side.

After nine seasons with the Waratahs, bar a part-season stint with Bordeaux, Kepu is one of the unsung barometers of the club, a comforting figure to many of his younger teammates.

“He’s got a real nice way about him,” coach Daryl Gibson said.

“He’s a got a real particular influence with the Polynesian players and I think his is impact behind the scenes is immense.”

It’s fitting that his milestone game is shaping as one for the forwards, against the Brumbies on a wet track at Allianz Stadium.

Two packs full of capped Wallabies players, with the home side boosted by the return of Will Skelton and Jed Holloway, will fight it out in a clash Kepu is anticipating.

“In the first three rounds, we haven’t played to our full potential so we’ve got to lead the way as a front row and get the rest of the eight in the pack to follow.

“In our home backyard against the Brumbies, there’s nothing more exciting than that.”

One of those men he remembers so clearly from his first day at Moore Park will be honoured on Saturday, with the Brumbies and Waratahs to play for the Dan Vickerman Cup.

Vickerman was packing down at tighthead lock when Kepu made his Super Rugby debut, then a loosehead prop just two years into a front row switch after a junior career as a flanker.

“I can’t remember whether it was Hassy (former Waratahs and Wallabies hooker Adam Freier) or Taf (former Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau), I think we didn’t win a lineout that night and although we won and I was celebrating first cap, he was so filthy that night.

“That’s the man he is and we fixed that pretty quickly.

“I think he’s a man of great aura and...he’s a man of perfection and not one you really wanted to cross and muck up a lineout for him, so, we’ll be giving it everything in his memory to do him proud.”

The Waratahs host the Brumbies at 7:45pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.

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