New Zealand head coach Steven Hansen has accused his South African counterpart Rassie Erasmus of trying to influence referee Jerome Garces ahead of their titanic World Cup battle this weekend.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Erasmus commented that the era in which the All-Blacks benefit from marginal calls because they are the best in the world has ended.
The former Munster coach called on referees to remain “open-minded” during the coming weeks as “this is a World Cup where any team can beat any team”.
Following Thursday’s team announcement, Hansen hit out at Erasmus for his comments and accused him of trying to pressurise Garces.
“It’s pretty obvious what they’re trying to do,” said Hansen.
“Whilst I’ve got a lot of respect for South Africa and particularly Rassie, I don’t agree with what he’s doing. 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 deal with. 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, referees 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.”
Garces has not been known for his leniency when it comes to the reigning World Cup champions. Throughout history, New Zealand have only received four red cards and two of them have come from the French referee.
In 2017, he sent off Sonny Bill Williams during their clash with the British and Irish Lions while he also showed a red card to Scott Barrett in their game against Australia earlier this year.
Hansen hopes that the referee will not let Erasmus’ comments affect his performance.
“You’d hope so – they’re not stupid people.”