CARDIFF: A conversation with Will Genia last week convinced Samu Kerevi he needed to stop heaping pressure on himself and just enjoy rugby again.
It seems to have paid dividends, with Kerevi producing arguably his best Wallabies performances of the year in his side’s 63-30 win over Japan.
Kerevi scored two tries of his own and helped set up a handful of others in what was his first start for since his poor showing against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney.
The 24-year-old was subsequently dropped for the next Test in Dunedin but earned a recall to the bench, a spot he maintained for the next five Tests before getting his chance at No.12 on Saturday in Yokohama.
On face value, Kerevi is a relaxed chap, however, his eagerness to do well was picked up by Genia who offered some sage advice before the weekend’s match.
“He was saying to back myself and enjoy footy,” Kerevi said. “That’s what I’ve missed in the last couple of weeks … I was putting so much pressure on myself. I just had to go out there and enjoy myself. I was happy I was able to do that.”
Kerevi reminded coach Michael Cheika of the attacking prowess he possesses with some barnstorming runs, albeit at Japanese defenders who won’t be as big as the Wales players he could run into this Saturday (Sunday AEDT) in Cardiff.
“It doesn’t matter who is in front of us, I know what my strengths are and that’s what I play to,” Kerevi said. “So if that’s ball carrying, that’s ball carrying.”
Kerevi’s defensive reads have come under criticism this year, particularly after a forgetful Sydney Test.
Against Japan though, Kerevi sized up and showed a willingness to get off his feet and back in the defensive line as soon as possible.
“I’m just happy to get out an 80-minute performance, I haven’t had one for a long time,” Kerevi said. “I felt good out there.
“I’m really proud of the boys’ performance. We played really well in the first half and patches in the second half. There was a lot of learning in that.”
Under normal circumstances, Kerevi would have done more than enough to cement his spot in ‘s next game.
However, Cheika has some decisions to make. Bernard Foley (illness), Will Genia (calf) and Karmichael Hunt (neck) are all expected to be eligible for selection this weekend.
Foley will take back the No.10 jersey from Reece Hodge, who will almost certainly slide back onto the wing.
Cheika has to make up his mind whether to keep Beale at fullback, who wasn’t afraid to jump into first receiver against the Cherry Blossoms, or put Hunt there.
Beale has spoken about the fact he and Hunt, if selected at No.12 and No.15 respectively, would be interchangeable in their positions and share roles rather than defending and attacking where the number on their back says they should.
While Kerevi looks set to be moved back to the bench, he believes competitive rivalry among players is always a positive.
“Whoever it is in the centres, all of us are pushing for a starting spot,” Kerevi said. “That positive competition will only drive us to be better. We all sit down and help each other out on the field and we connect really well off the field.”
Kerevi did not travel with the Wallabies on their end of season tour to Europe last year because of injury and has therefore never played Wales before.
have beaten Wales in their previous 12 matches but there is caution in Wallabies camp given the hosts will be more determined than ever to cause an upset victory.
“They’ve got a big back line and a strong forward pack,” Kerevi said. “All northern hemisphere [sides] have that. They have that physicality they bring in set-piece and in game play.”