Kiwi teams ‘bet­ter at dark arts’ – Reds cap­tain

The Press - - Sport -

Aus­tralia’s young Su­per Rugby sides lack the law-bend­ing smarts of Kiwi teams, ac­cord­ing to Queens­land Reds skip­per Scott Hig­gin­botham.

Former Wal­laby Stephen Hoiles said Aus­tralian teams must ‘‘start cheat­ing bet­ter’’ if they are to end a trans-Tas­man los­ing streak that stretches 39 matches.

Hig­gin­botham, who re­turns from in­jury in one of three Reds start­ing changes to face the Hur­ri­canes to­day, wasn’t as blunt as Hoiles but says the sen­ti­ment is spot-on.

Rather than crit­i­cise New Zealand teams for get­ting away with off-the­ball play the vet­eran loose for­ward wants his com­pa­tri­ots to adopt the same sub­tleties.

‘‘It has a bit to do with the play­ing age of a lot of the play­ers,’’ Hig­gin­botham said. ‘‘Know­ing ex­actly how to play the game, know­ing where you can cut cor­ners, where you can push the bound­aries.’’

Hig­gin­botham says the Reds are an ex­am­ple of a team stacked with play­ers not long out of school foot­ball.

Many have barely ex­pe­ri­enced the some­times cyn­i­cal learn­ing ground of club rugby.

‘‘You’ve got to put the time in on the field. You’ve got to watch a lot of foot­ball and see ex­actly what you can get away with,’’ he said.

‘‘You can see the Kiwi sides are will­ing to push the en­ve­lope.’’

How­ever, Hig­gin­botham wasn’t bit­ing when asked about the appointment of New Zealand ref­eree Ben O’Ke­effe for the match in Welling­ton tonight.

O’Ke­effe was crit­i­cised for his con­trol of last week’s Cru­saders-Waratahs clash when the Kiwi side fought back from 29 points down to win.

They were helped when bla­tant foul play from prop Joe Moody was missed dur­ing the leadup to a try.

‘‘If you’re a good enough side, you should win the game no mat­ter what sort of ref­eree you have,’’ Hig­gin­botham said.

Former Wal­laby Hig­gin­botham was relieved to re­turn after miss­ing seven games this year – three to an early sus­pen­sion and the last four with in­jury.

Other new faces in the start­ing side hum­bled 63-28 by the Sun­wolves are mid­field back Dun­can Paia’aua and prop JP Smith.

Out­side back Chris Feaui-Sau­tia makes way be­cause of con­cus­sion while Wal­la­bies loose­head James Slip­per is omit­ted for undis­closed ‘‘wel­fare rea­sons’’.

Scott Hig­gin­botham says NZ sides are masters at push­ing the en­ve­lope.

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