Grim Bledisloe reality facing Wallaby legends
WITH more than 650 Test caps between them, the core band of Wallabies who are leaving Australia at the end of the season have compiled a pretty impressive CV for themselves.
When you put it all together, their list of accomplishments is staggering.
Most have played in multiple World Cups including the 2015 final at Twickenham.
Many have already won a Rugby Championship title and a Super Rugby crown.
There's been victories over every major Test-playing country in the world and personal milestones as well, with some having reached the milestone of 100 international appearances and others short-listed for world player of the year.
But there's one glaring bucket-list achievement none of them have ever achieved; getting their hands on the Bledisloe Cup.
And if they don't pull a rabbit out of the hat and beat New Zealand in Perth on Saturday then again in Auckland a week later, they'll end their careers without ticking the one box that everyone who's ever pulled on the gold jersey strives for.
"From that perspective, the reality drops that this is your last shot at the Bledisloe and it is for a few of us in the squad," Sekope Kepu said.
The veteran prop has played 105 Tests for Australia but is joining London Irish next season so doesn't expect to get another shot at the Bledisloe Cup.
Like most of his senior teammates, his record against the All Blacks is nothing to boast about. In 22 matches against the old foe, he's been on the winning side just three times.
He rates his first victory against New Zealand as one of the highlights of his career.
"My first win, in 2011 up in Brisbane, when Radike Samo scored that 50m try. That was pretty satisfying," he said.
Kepu also beat New Zealand in Sydney in 2015 and in Brisbane again in 2017 but the rest have been forgettable, even the two draws. His worst memory was losing at the death in 2014 when the All Blacks converted a try after the buzzer to win 29-18.
"To lose on the bell there was pretty heartbreaking," Kepu said. "You take the good and the bad."
Kepu's far from alone when it comes to Bledisloe Cup heartache.
It's been 17 years since Australia last won the trophy so not a single member of the current squad has been able to get their hands on the giant trophy.
Like Kepu, Adam Ashley-Cooper (117 Tests) and Will Genia (102 Tests) have both made more than 100 appearances for the Wallabies, but no Bledisloe Cup success.
Ashley-Cooper has been involved in five wins over Zealand, albeit from 29 matches, but no-one else in the squad has had more than three, including David Pocock (77 Tests) and Bernard Foley (69 Tests).
The exodus of players leaving Australia after the World Cup to play in either Europe or Japan includes Samu Kerevi, Nick Phipps, Christian Lealiifano, Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold.
Some have never beaten the All Blacks but Kepu said no-one had given up on chance to end on the ultimate high.
"My mentality is take every opportunity I can get and empty the tank and do whatever I can for the team," he said.
"That moment where you start driving into stadiums, you see the people gathered walking to the stadium, that's the feeling you love and miss about the game."