Sekope Kepu is nervously looking over his shoulder as a new generation of multi-skilled Wallabies props comes through the ranks.
The emergence of Tom Robertson and Allan Alaalatoa has been a highlight of Australia’s recent Rugby Championship wins, with both players in the touring squad for the upcoming Tests against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST) and Argentina in London next weekend.
Robertson made his international debut off the bench in the 36-20 victory over Los Pumas, filling in for four-cap youngster Allan Alaalatoa, who missed out with a knee injury but could be fit in time to face the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld.
Together with Queensland Reds excitement machine Taniela Tupou, whose progress Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is watching closely, the trio represents a bright future for Australia’s front-row stocks – leaving veteran Kepu with somewhat mixed feelings.
“It’s exciting and scary for me,” he said.
“I’m almost 10 years older than a couple of those guys.
“I’m just more happy for Australian rugby that we’ve got young guys coming through and the important thing for those young guys is to get that experience and bide their time.
“They’re in a great program and it’s exciting for me to know when I move on, there’s a lot of great young props and players – not only can they scrum but they can run and carry the ball a fair bit.”
Cheika has also flagged the possibility of converting Robertson from tighthead to loosehead to balance out the Australian pack.
That would allow the 22-year-old to start alongside Kepu – who is currently Australia and NSW’s starting tighthead prop – next year when the veteran returns to the Waratahs following his brief stint with French club Bordeaux.
“If that’s what they’ve got planned, I’m sure he’ll take that with two hands,” Kepu said.
“He’s going to become a doctor so he’s a smart cookie and he knows his footy. He’s always learning, asking questions and I’m sure he’ll be there in the program for the next little while.”