How former All Black unlocked Wallaby weapon's full potential

The Rugby Championship
by Emma Greenwood

After ripping up the Super Rugby season, Samu Kerevi could yet be the Wallabies' World Cup talisman.

Kerevi will play what could be his farewell Test against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday after signing to play in Japan for the next three years.

But just a year ago, the Reds centre wasn't even in the Wallabies 23 when they took on the Pumas in Salta.

The turnaround has been remarkable and while the Wallabies will benefit, they may have a former all Black to thank if Kerevi goes on to terrorise teams wearing the no.12 jersey at the World Cup.

Reds coach Brad Thorn convinced a reluctant Kerevi to shift to inside centre and he has made the position his own this season.

Samu kerevi trains with the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

“After that game in Salta I was gutted I wasn’t able to play and seeing the boys rip up like that (winning after a  miraculous second-half comeback) was awesome," Kerevi said.

“For me the big change was at Queensland being able to play 12.

"I was really reluctant to play 12 at the start of the year, me and Thorny had back- to-back chats about it and I really wasn’t happy to shift.

“Even though I’d played there in the past I was really confident at No.13, the way it attacks, you get a bit more free rein – especially when I would play with (Will Genia), he’d try to find me and I would be roaming around – a 12 is a bit different, you’re organising a bit more.

“I had to realise I could play 12 in a different way. I was so used to seeing 12s play that playmaking role. I had to bring my own little mix into it and I’m happy with the way things went in Super Rugby."

Samu Kerevi makes a bust in the Wallabies' Test loss to the Springboks at ellis Park. Photo: Getty Images

Kerevi was Australia's most potent player in last week's loss to the Springboks, making 81m from 18 runs - the most of any player on the ground - beating eight defenders and making three clean breaks as much of the Wallabies attack focussed on him.

He had poor moments too - the forward pass to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto that botched a try and a couple of defensive efforts close to his line that would have had Reds defensive coach Peter Ryan - who worked hard to ensure his defence would stand up at no.12 - shouting at his TV.

But apart from when Kurtley Beale entered the fray in the second half at Ellis Park, Kerevi looked the Wallabies' most dangerous man.

Whether he plays at 12 or 13 on Saturday is still undecided, with Cheika likely to inject James O'Connor - Kerevi's Reds replacement - into the match at some stage, if not from the start.

 

"I don't know what's going through the boss's head, he'll be trying different combinations but I've been comfortable playing 12 and ended up playing 13 as well on the weekend," Kerevi said.

"I really enjoy playing 12, but if I get picked at 13 I’m not going to say no. I’m really happy with the way things went this year but you can always get better at that position, even from the weekend there’s a lot of learnings I’m going to take from that and take into my game this week."

A Wallabies win will be the most important thing for Kerevi but the chance for a proper farewell at Suncorp Stadium after being unable to officially reveal he was leaving the Reds ahead of their last home game of the season, is a bonus.

“I think it was a tough situation I was in at that time, but this weekend it’s not just about me," he said.

Samu Kerevi has settled into the Test scene. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

"I just want to contribute to this team’s success, for the guys who might be playing their last game or their first cap or guys that are returning.

“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, Argentina’s been playing some awesome footy – we saw it in Super Rugby and even in last week. I just want to contribute.”

The Wallabies host the Pumas at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday July 27, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on Network Ten, Fox Sports, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

Buy tickets here.

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