Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu and his teammates will understand if their in-form back-rower Wycliff Palu is not able to play following the death of his father last week.
But on Tuesday, Kepu did not play down the added value that the Wallabies No.8 would bring to the Waratahs for their must-win game against the Bulls in Sydney on Saturday should he muster the strength of will to play.
While the Waratahs last week said Palu’s unavailability for last week’s game against the Force was due to injury, team management revealed on Tuesday that it was because of the death of his father, Lua, in Sydney.
Palu is available for selection this week. Understandably, he did not train with the Waratahs on Tuesday, but whether the bruising ball-running back-rower does play is a question the Waratahs have left up to him to answer.
Kepu said on Tuesday that he has spoken to Palu, and that he and several of the Polynesian members of the Waratahs had planned to visit him and his family for a traditional homage.
“We are emotional people and he is very close to his father, hence why he spent the last few years living with his ‘olds’ [parents] … to help out,” Kepu said on Tuesday.
”He has felt the impact but he is holding himself together strong, and a few of us boys are going to head out tonight and do a traditional token of respect and show our love to him and his family.”
While doubt continues over Palu’s presence in Saturday’s game, Kepu said he hoped if his Tongan-heritaged mate plays he might find a way to “release those emotions and express himself and do what he loves doing outside of his family … and be the beast he can be”.
While he would understand if Palu did not play, he said that his absence in a game is always felt, so great is his impact when he is in top form and fitness.
“There are moments in the game that he can change, [with] big runs or [when he] flattens or turns the mental attitude, or weakens the opposition,” Kepu said. “He brings those attributes and [we] obviously miss that.
“But again, we have Will [Skelton], who has come in and he has done a really good job in the second row and allows ‘Potsy’ [Jacques Potgieter] to have a bit of a break on the side of the scrum from the pushing.”
“[Palu] is severely missed, but we have ability and depth, and if you can’t do that as a team you are not going to win the competition.”
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