South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus heaps pressure on officials for World Cup opener against New Zealand by claiming referees can have too much respect for the All Blacks
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has turned up the heat on the referee for their World Cup opener by drawing attention to a history of favouritism towards the All Blacks.
Erasmus said he is 'hopeful' that Frenchman Jerome Garces will treat the Pool B Test in an 'open-minded' manner.
Many are tipping both sides to meet again in the final in November - and South Africa have made just one change to their side that drew against the All Blacks in July, with Siya Kolisi returning as captain.
Rassie Erasmus has turned up the heat on the referee for their World Cup opener
SA TEAM TO FACE NZ
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Malcolm Marx, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Pieter-Steph du Toir, 7. Siya Kolisi (captain), 8. Duane Veremeulen
Replacements: 16. Bongi Mbonambi, 17. Tendai Mtawarira, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. RG Snyman, 20. Francois Louw, 21. Herschell Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23. Jesse Kriel.
'I think the thing that makes it special is that if you ask anybody right now who is going to win this Test match, I don't think anybody could bet on either of the two teams,' said Erasmus.
'We want our boys to win and we think we have a really good chance. If you ask Steve and their team, they'll think they have a really good chance. Hopefully the referee is not too sure.
'That's the way it should be, the way a World Cup should be.. It's a great opener for us and that's why it's special. We are certainly looking forward to see what they're team will look like on Thursday.'
Asked to expand on his comments about the officiating, Erasmus said: 'Let me clarify that. In 1999 when I played and we were on that 17-Test match roll, you get a lot of support from fans, respect from opposition but also from referees.
'There is certainly a time when even the referees buy into that respect. Because you are playing so well, referees almost find it tough to penalise you in 50-50 decisions.
'The way rugby has evolved over the past year or so, all teams are so close, currently. England beat Wales and Wales beat England. Australia played New Zealand and it was a 40-point game and then New Zealand gave Australia a hiding the next week.
'It's the same with us. I just think the gap between the teams has shrunk so much and, because New Zealand were number one in the world for so long, there was a time when they had respect from every level, even referees.
'I think it's a well-known fact that when teams were under the pump [against them], some of the 50-50 decisions went their way - they deserved that for being number one so long. It happened to many other teams. It happened to the Springboks in 2009.'
New Zealand's players take part in a training session at the Tatsuminomori Seaside Park in Koto