New buzz for Kepu ahead of Waratahs return

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sekope Kepu’s never felt like this before.

The 31-year-old is back home and buzzing ahead of his first Waratahs match since 2015.

“I haven't felt like this before a Super Rugby competition in a long time,” he said, speaking to reporters at the team’s captain’s run.

“I like the way, the style we're going to try and play this year and the way Daryl wants us to play, I'm pretty excited to be honest.

Kepu said more responsibility had been handed to the players under Gibson, a move that was shown with the introduction of a  peer-voted leadership group this season.

It’s a mentality the Waratahs picked up off their AFL neighbours, the Swans, whose success on-field has been mirrored with their off-field leaders in recent times.

“The onus that he's put on the skipper and the leadership group and all the players in general having a voice and everyone's opinions are taken into consideration, is something that's awesome,” Kepu said.

“It's something that's new to me but I'm really enjoying it.”

Kepu watched on in the early stages of 2016 as the Waratahs scrum struggled, before the emergence of eventual Wallabies debutant Tom Robertson and on Saturday night the pair will be packing down together.

Sekope Kepu is buzzing ahead of the 2017 season. Photo: WalmsleyThe 31-year-old wants to rebuild the ‘aura’ of the Waratahs scrum as they look to start the season on a high note.

“When you build that aura and that reputation as a scrum as a whole, then you win that battle before you get out there on the field,” he said.

“So, that's something we're aiming to do and we're just working together as a team.

“We've got great front rowers, great hookers. (They have) awesome experience, with Roachy (reserve hooker Hugh Roach) and it’s good to have Fitzy (Damien Fitzpatrick) back, he's done some time over in France there so he would've learned a lot.”

Robertson’s switch to loosehead came with news of Kepu’s return last year and the 22-year-old has had cameos in the spot for the Wallabies and in NSW’s trials, but forwards coach Cam Blades said there was some way to go still.

Tom Robertson will start at loosehead against the Force. Photo: Walmsley“We had four long-standing props that have served the state really well and whilst one or two of them are still here, once some of the senior members moved on, there hadn’t been opportunities for those young guys (but now there is),” he said.

“Tom's going well.Like all of his game it's a work in progress.

“It's been a pretty rapid rise for him and I think certainly loosehead prop in the long-term will be something that suits him quite well.”

Blades said the set piece was still a work in progress for the entire side.

“Last year we were exposed a little bit early through the loss of some of those really experienced guys and some of the younger, less experienced players had to learn on the coal face a lot,” he said.

“That was obviously shown in some of those inconsistent performances early in the season and the way we finished the year, especially from a scrum perspective, was good.

“You're always trying to get better and whilst we proved late last year, we still want to turn ourselves into a really world-class pack and we're far from that at the moment.”

Brad Wilkin will miss a second straight season. Photo: WalmsleyOne young Waratah has been dealt a painful blow on the eve of his Super Rugby debut - Brad Wilkin has suffered his second ACL injury.

Wilkin missed the entire 2016 season after a knee reconstruction and managed to injure his good knee in Thursday’s training.

He will be replaced in the side by Senio Toleafoa against the Force.

The Waratahs take on the Force on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on