Referee Jaco Peyper has been described as a “pretty good” communicator as he prepares to take charge of Saturday’s first Test between New Zealand and the British & Irish Lions.
The South African official will be under an intense spotlight at Eden Park, Auckland as both sides strive for immediate success in the three-Test series.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland has already highlighted what he sees as New Zealand players illegally blocking to prevent opponents contesting possession in the air, with that issue surfacing during last weekend’s victory over New Zealand Maori in Rotorua.
Asked about the blocking suggestions on Monday, All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino said: “As long as you are within the rules, I don’t think there is any problem.
“For us, we can’t really go into a game worrying about what the ref is going to rule on how we play the game.
“You have just got to play to the whistle. The ref’s ruling on things, you have just got to adapt and adjust as fast as you can within that 80 minutes. For us, it is a matter of focusing on our strengths as much as possible.
“He [Peyper] is pretty good in how he commentates to the players in terms of what’s going on and what he wants. As a player, you always want to know what [the referee] needs from you, and that is all you can ask for.”
Kaino, meanwhile, has described the prospect of playing in a Test series against the Lions as “huge”.
Kaino won the first of his 78 caps a year after the Lions’ last New Zealand visit in 2005, when they suffered a 3-0 Test series whitewash against the Dan Carter-inspired All Blacks.
But he is set to be a key part of head coach Steve Hansen’s back-row armoury this time around, starting at Eden Park, where New Zealand are unbeaten since 1994.
“Any Test in the All Blacks environment is huge, and I think things are slowly starting to amplify now that we are finally getting to the first Lions Test,” Kaino added.
“The Lions Tests in 2005 were amazing, how the whole country got amongst it, and all the Lions fans added to everything. It was a great time to be in New Zealand, and it is a similar feeling this time around.
“You don’t think your professional career is going to last more than 10 years, and I feel blessed to be able to be here and been around for this long.
“All that [Lions fans] adds to the Test match atmosphere, whether they are supporting you or not. Any Test match you play, home or away, has always got that pressure.
“It is exciting. There has been a long build-up to this first Test, and we are excited about the challenge.”
The back-row battle is set to be a critical aspect of all three Tests, and Kaino admits the Lions’ resources in that area are impressive.
“They are probably some of the form loose forwards of the last couple of years. Sean O’Brien was huge on the weekend [against the New Zealand Maori], and against the Crusaders. It’s not just the tight stuff, he gets around the park as well.
“Individually, I think they are up there with some of the best, and seeing their combinations the last couple of weeks definitely makes them a threat.”
Both Kaino and his colleague Brodie Retallick were relaxed as they met the media at New Zealand’s team hotel in Auckland, but Retallick underlined how big a task the world champions face.
“We’ve looked at certain aspects of the Maori game,” he said. “They [Lions] brought a real intensity.
“There is a lot of anticipation about this first Test in the series. We’ve got huge respect for what the Lions are and what they are bringing.
“They play the game maybe slightly differently to an Australian team or a South African team, but that is what rugby is all about, having the ability to overcome an opposition with different tactics. It’s an exciting challenge.
“It [Lions] is definitely special. I can’t describe what it is going to be like on Saturday, but I know it is going to be pretty intense and there will be a lot of pressure.”
And Kaino underlined the mood when asked to comment on Gatland’s claim two days ago that Hansen might be worried leading into the Tests.
“He [Hansen] was still his cheeky self this morning, cracking jokes,” Kaino said. “So I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary.”