Sekope Kepu has no fear second time around

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 22:03 11/08/2014
Sekope Kepu
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LAST LAUGH: Sekope Kepu may have had a hard time in the front row against the Crusaders but he was the one smiling at the end of the Super Rugby final.

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Craig Joubert's message was intended for his assistant referees but was amplified to a wider audience thanks to broadcast technology accessible to rugby spectators and armchair critics.

And they were hardly the words Sekope Kepu needed a global viewership of millions to hear after he was penalised for a scrum infringement during the Super Rugby final against the Crusaders on August 2.

"He's getting smashed," explained Joubert via his microphone to Steve Walsh and James Leckie as Waratahs prop Kepu reeled from another engagement with Crusaders and All Blacks loosehead Wyatt Crockett.

Kepu gamely recalled that galling experience before the NSW side's triumph at ANZ Stadium as the Wallabies headed to training in Sydney today, and insisted he had no fears about a rematch this Saturday.

"It wasn't ideal. I'm obviously not happy when you get two penalties against yourself but those are the things you learn from. As a prop you learn every game, every scrum.

"You've got to adjust, change along the way and roll with the punches," he said.

"At the end of the day it's the referees call, whether it's right or wrong. I've got to make sure I don't bring the referee into the game."

Crockett could certainly understand Kepu's standpoint considering his own test career was stalled in November 2009 when Australian referee Stuart Dickinson - erroneously as it turned out - penalised the then three-cap rookie off Milan's San Siro Stadium.

The 31-year-old did not play another international until 2011 but has since established himself as the back-up to currently injured 110-test veteran Tony Woodcock.

Kepu's torment at the set piece only eased when Crockett was forced from the field with a knee injury and although he wasn't making excuses. the 41-test front rower only struck problems once Tatafu Polota-Nau had also hobbled off.

Tolu Latu, who made his Super Rugby debut this year, came off the bench to replace the Wallabies hooker and understandably took time to get to grips with an All Black-laden pack.

"We were trying to find our feet a little bit, but then again it's not good enough," he said, revealing the Wallabies coaching staff had already addressed his issues with the tall Cantabrian.

"I've sat down with (scrum coach Andrew Blades) and gone through it. They're little things and we'll look to improve on that providing I get the chance to come up against him this week."

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Barring a mishap at a "massive" scrummaging session scheduled for tomorrow, the Auckland-raised Kepu is guaranteed to play his ninth test against the All Blacks.

Queensland's 29-test campaigner Saia Fainga'a joins the squad as a replacement for the luckless Latu - who broke his arm playing club rugby yesterday - though Nathan Charles is poised to start the first test of his career while one-cap Queenslander James Hanson should be on the bench when the team is named tomorrow.

Historically the Wallabies' scrum is automatically targeted on the basis of its fragile reputation so the presence of two untested hookers makes the set piece even more inviting for the All Blacks, although Kepu naturally endorsed the newcomers.

"I'm sure they're looking forward to soaking up the occasion and taking the opportunity," said Kepu, comforted by the fact that Charles had been developed under the watchful eye of former Wallabies hooker Michael Foley at the Western Force.

- Stuff

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