There’s a very different feeling around the 2015 World Cup Wallabies than their 2011 counterparts and prop Sekope Kepu puts it down to one secret ingredient: love.
Kepu played at loosehead at Eden Park that night, when Australia went down to New Zealand and switching to the other side of the scrum is not the only thing that has changed since then, he said.
“I’ve learned a lot between then and now,” he said.
“The team has really come a long way. I’m really really loving my rugby and this tournament so far.
“The team’s grown and I feel there’s there’s a lot more love and whatever it is.
“It’s a special team and group of men to be a part of.”
Kepu said the coaching staff’s emphasis on character as much as on-field performances had galvanised the squad and benefited him personally.
“Something I’ll always be grateful for and take away from Australian rugby and from learning off Cheik and the coaching staff is just being a better person,” he said.
“If i can do that, that allows me to play my footy and be the best rugby player that i can be.
“That’s it in a nutshell.”
There’s a discussion of pride in almost every conversation had with a Wallabies squad member through this World Cup and Kepu said the desire to create performances for others to be proud of was a key motivation.
“You don’t want to let down yourself, your teammates and the people back home, your family that mean the most to you,” he said.
It’s that mentality that has helped the Wallabies squeeze out of tight spots under immense pressure in their past three games particularly, against England, Wales and Scotland.
Kepu said the first place he looked in those situations was to the closest man in gold.
“You do the hard work together ,you enjoy it, you learn new things about guys that you didn’t know,” he said.
“it’s all about us as people and if we can be that person and be the best we can be that’ll obviously come out in our performances on the field.
“That’s something our people can be proud of.
“Everyone’s got a different reason why they draw strength from (a particular place).
“I have mine and...definitely (in) moments when things get a bit tough you look to each other on the field first and you find confidence from the guy standing next to you.”
Kepu will be lining up with a different front row partner on Sunday after Scott Sio (elbow) was ruled out of the semi-final, replaced by James Slipper.
The 29-year-old said Sio was in “good spirits” despite the blow and paid tribute to the youngster on Saturday.
“He’s really stepped up and taken the opportunities he’s been given,” he said.
“That’s all part of rugby and injuries come with it.
“He’s in good spirits and we’re all about pushing each other every single day, getting the best out of each other in the little competitions that we have among the front row and the front pack.”