New Zealand coach Steve Hansen claims rival boss Rassie Erasmus was wrong to question standards of Test refereeing ahead of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup opener.
The All Blacks face the Springboks in the first match of their title defence, yet the build-up to a mammoth clash between the world champions and Rugby Championship winners has been overshadowed by Erasmus’ criticism of the officiating.
The South Africa boss claimed it is a “well-known fact” that New Zealand have in the past received preferential treatment from referees.
Hansen feels Erasmus has blatantly attempted to put pressure on Jerome Garces, Saturday’s man in the middle, and suggested both teams would benefit from letting the referee get on with his job.
“It’s pretty obvious what they’re trying to do and, while I’ve got a lot of respect for South Africa and particularly Rassie, I think he’s a great coach, I don’t agree with what he’s doing,” Hansen told reporters.
“He’s trying to put pressure on referees externally and they’re under enough pressure already. They don’t need us coaches doing what he’s doing.
“It doesn’t matter who your ref is. As a coach or a team, you can always find things after the game that they didn’t do and you can get emotional about that and think that they’re picking on you and not on the opposition. We’ve done it ourselves.
“At the end of the day, they try to do the best they can do. Yes, they don’t always get it right all the time and we’ve suffered from that just like other teams have.
“It’s a big game, we just need to let the ref get on with it and prepare for it himself.”
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He added of the officials’ ability to cope with the pressure: “They’re not stupid people, so you’d hope [they can deal with it].”
Garces has run the rule over five previous Tests between New Zealand and South Africa – each of them All Blacks wins – sending off Springboks centre Damian de Allende in 2017.
However, the French referee also dismissed Scott Barrett for the All Blacks against Australia last month.
Barrett said ahead of meeting Garces again: “There’s obviously a fine line and I’ve learned from that and am keen to move on.
“The laws are there for a reason, to protect players and player welfare, and I’ve been working hard and keen to address that. We’ve had the briefing and we’re well aware how they’ll be reffing high shots and foul play.”
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