Experience key to 'pushing the envelope': Higginbotham

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Learning when to "push the envelope" during matches is an element of the game Australian Super Rugby sides are yet to conquer, according to Reds captain Scott Higginbotham.

The lack of "rugby smarts" among Australian sides has been a topic of hot debate in the wake of the Waratahs' loss to the Crusaders - a match in which NSW blew a 29 point lead and were on the wrong side of some woeful refereeing from Ben O'Keeffe.

Fox Sports commentator Stephen Hoiles said Australians needed to learn to "cheat better" in an emotional post game show but has since refined his comments, penning a column in which he highlighted the need to improve in the "dark arts" elements of the game.

New Zealand outfits have long been masters of the dark arts and as the Reds prepare to face the Hurricanes in Wellington, Higginbotham said it was an element of the game which can only be taught by time on the field and in the film room.

"Experience has a lot to do with it, I think," Higginbotham said.Scott Higginbotham believes inexperience is to blame for Australia's lack of rugby smarts. Photo: Getty Images"You have to put the time in on the field but you also have to watch a lot of football.

"You have to see exactly what you can get away with.

"It's easy when you're in front on the scoreboard, to push the boundaries and to push the envelope a bit more.

"You can obviously see the Kiwi sides are willing to push that envelope and try things and they have the confidence to do that."

When asked why Australian sides don't follow the Kiwi lead, Higginbotham pointed to the age of the squads - with the average age of Queensland's squad hovering around 23.

"I think that has to do with the age and the playing age of a lot of players," he said.

"Knowing exactly how to play the game, where you can cut corners, where you can push the boundaries, there are a lot of guys in Australia at the moment who have only recently become professional football players.

"A lot of them have only played school football, are in Super teams now and have only played a handful of footy at this level."

On a Queensland front, Higginbotham said the loss to the Sunwolves just a fortnight after beating the Lions exposed the maturity - or lack thereof - in his side.

"You can't win a game against the Lions and then go drop a game against the Sunwolves," he said.

"(Considering) the difference with where they are on the table and where they sit.

"It showed where the maturity level is, in the side."

With their backs now firmly pressed against the wall, Queensland face a monumental task if they are to upset the Hurricanes.

Defence has been the Reds' barometer all season and it will prove critical from the outset in Wellington.

"Obviously we have to front up, take space and put pressure on them," Higginbotham said.

"If you stand back, watch them and let them play their shape - which is what they like to do - then they will get on top of you.

"We have to try and counteract that."

The Reds face the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.