Aussies crank up heat on Kaplan

Australia have appealed to South African referee Jonathan Kaplan to ensure there’s a fair contest at scrum time.

This after Kaplan’s countryman Mark Lawrence repeatedly penalised the Australian scrum in the Tri-Nations opener in Auckland.

Wallabies tighthead prop Al Baxter was pinned consistently in that Test, although it often appeared that his opponent was slipping his bind or burrowing in on the hit.

The Wallabies lost that Test 22-16 and inadvertently pointed to Lawrence’s poor management of the scrum as a major contributing factor.

They had no such worries against the Springboks at Newlands where they progressively became more dominant. Irishman Alain Rolland handled that fixture and was pretty consistent in his law application at scrum time. Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore was looking for a similar performance from Kaplan.

‘I think he’s an excellent referee of the scrum so I’m sure he’ll make the right calls out there on the field,’ Moore said.

‘That’s all you can hope for and we need to take the referees out of the equation as much as we can by scrummaging well and scrummaging positively, which is what we intend to do.’

The Wallabies’ scrums have improved significantly in the last two years and Moore wasn’t surprised that they were perceived to have won the scrum battle against the Springboks. He said the All Blacks ‘would pose a different threat’ in that department, from which you can take that they are braced for a sterner challenge.

Meanwhile, Wallabies centre Berrick Barnes lamented the fact that the scrapping of the ELVs that sought to promote a faster, more entertaining brand of rugby has forced teams to kick more often.

He said they preferred a ball in hand approach, but conceded that they would be forced to kick for field position at times.

‘Kicking’s going to be a part of it no matter how much we try and say we want it to be running rugby,’ Barnes said.

‘There’s going to be a kicking element to it because field position – as you’ve seen with the way the laws are now – plays a big part in winning games. If you’re down the right ends, you go a long way to winning it.

‘But I certainly hope when we get the opportunity to play football, we will.’