By WYNNE GRAY
Sometime this morning, Toutai Kefu will slip out of his hotel and wander down to the TAB near Olympic Stadium in Sydney.
It is a ritual for the powerful Wallaby No 8 who loves punting on the gallops; trots and the dogs get the flick however.
Kefu is part of a syndicate which owns a couple of unraced three-year-olds, horses called Thrash and Cape.
"My wife loves the races but she calls them trash and crap for the use they have been," he said.
There will be no punts on those today nor will Kefu bet on the outcome of tonight's Bledisloe Cup either. That is a definite no-go zone, although he tips a Wallaby victory.
"If we all play well, if we play to our ability then we have got a good chance," he says.
This is the same guy who had Michael Jones and Buck Shelford as his early rugby idols, admires the All Blacks for everything they have done in world rugby and spoiled their party at Olympic Stadium last year with a final minute touchdown.
Kefu twisted past his opposite, Ron Cribb, beat three other cover defenders and planted the ball just on the line before being wrenched skywards as if he was on the end of a bungee cord. A probable All Black victory turned into a Cinderella retirement for Wallaby captain John Eales and hastened the exit of All Black coach Wayne Smith.
It continued the edge the Wallabies had over the All Blacks, a results sheet which has them ahead 6-3 in the last five seasons.
But there is no hint of superiority from Kefu or the Wallabies as they contemplate trying to hold on to the silverware tonight. They were beaten in wicked conditions in Christchurch, they took the loss and vowed to break back in Sydney.
There is a quietness about Kefu's manner, his soft speech and warm laughter do not equate with the thunderclap charges and brutal hits he makes. He may not look the biggest forward on the field, but his massive legs indicate his power.
It is a body blessed with the natural athletic attributes of many Tongan men and sharpened with skills, talents and ideas handed down by his father, Fatai, who played centre for Tonga in the 70s.
After touring Australia in 1975, Kefu's father was offered a contract to play for the Souths club in Brisbane. It was the chance the family wanted. They lived in the same Kolomatu'a village as Jonah Lomu's parents although they were not from the same bloodline.
The families ended up on opposite sides of the Tasman but Kefu always treasures playing the men in black.
As a youngster from a rugby-mad household, he watched the All Blacks' successes while the Wallabies were erratic. The family was not well off but they had sporting gifts that were fought out in the backyard between five boys and a sister.
"As soon as we all turned six, my dad took us down to Souths to play rugby," Kefu recalled. "We grew up round that scene but a lot of our focus was on the All Blacks.
"I still consider the All Blacks to be the pinnacle of world rugby. We are only good because of them, we have always tried to be as good as them if not better and we still hold them in high regard.
"Probably if you break down the individuals over the last four or five years they have got us in all the positions for individual talent or flair while we have battled and struggled as a team."
As the benchmark, the All Blacks had such little room for improvement while the others had plenty to do to reach their standards as they have started to do in professional rugby. That was a compliment to the All Blacks.
At high school Kefu's sporting loyalty was divided between rugby and basketball, a code in which he represented Queensland at age-group level as a small forward.
He is not a small forward now at 1.91m and 110kgs, but brings the light-stepping attacking qualities from that original basketball career to get him across that crucial advantage line. "It is not always power which gets you there - little things can do it. It is not always brute force," he said.
"It is all about making decisions on when to try for your power or use your agility, running at your opponent's wrong shoulder or fending someone off. I am not the quickest forward but I have got a little step, a swerve and I can get a little bit of a palm off and I use a combination of things to try and get through traffic."
Kefu used all those qualities to break the All Blacks last season. He would accept a repeat result but would love some other team-mate, less in the limelight, to experience the same emotion.
Kefu hopes administrators can sort out the schedule to allow more tours. Young players needed those trips to develop their games away from the pressure of Super 12, Tri-Nations or tests. He envied the Lions who toured Australia last year and thinks the ultimate would be a Wallaby tour of New Zealand.
All Blacks test schedule/scoreboard
By WYNNE GRAY