DURBAN – Whether Rassie Erasmus put attack coach Mzwandile Stick up to it or not, the bottom line is that it is out there – the Springboks want the match officials on Saturday in Yokohama to play fair and square and not favour the All Blacks.
It is a fact of sporting life that the glory teams sometimes get the rub of the green simply because officials are subliminally intimidated by the aura that surrounds teams like the All Blacks, Barcelona and Manchester United. It is this thinking that has had the rugby world swearing that the imperious Richie McCaw got away with murder every time he took the field simply because… he was Richie McCaw.
Be that as it may, the Springbok management clearly want Saturday’s officials to be aware that the Boks know that the world champion All Blacks unfairly receive preferential treatment, and that this must change.
“Hopefully the match officials will respect this game,” Stick said. “Things are a lot more balanced between us and New Zealand right now. In fact, the gap between the All Blacks and the other top teams has closed. The All Blacks have been dominating at Test level.
They’ve been favourites going into the World Cup before but if you look at the top five teams at the moment, each one of them has a good chance to win this World Cup.
“If you look at the recent results in the northern hemisphere where Wales beat and lost to England, and it was the same (in return matches) between Ireland and Wales, it’s been very close. It’s been a very interesting build up to this World Cup. Hopefully the officials will treat every team equally and respect the games and fans.”
Apart from the match officials displaying no bias, Stick said that it had obviously been vital for the Boks to ensure they don’t beat themselves by not being on the same page when it comes to attack and defence strategies.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work as a team and as a coaching staff. I feel that we’re all aligned and I don’t think we could have asked for a better build up to the World Cup,” the former Sevens star said. “We are in a good tactical space, we feel we can present a threat on defence as well as attack in this campaign.
“One thing we’ve done is to make sure all the coaches on attack and defence are working together and are aligned regarding the plan.
“Sometimes you get systems that are too defensive… You’ve got to have a defensive system that complements your attack and we are confident that we have got that right. We are managing to find a balance of when to kick and when to run. We’re always looking to apply the pressure on the opposition.
“I am sure they (the All Blacks) are looking forward to this one as much as we are…”