COMMENT: Gregor Paul in Tokyo
Rassie Erasmus was never in a million years going to offer any hard facts to back his claim that the All Blacks have had referees in their pockets during their decade-long period of world domination.
The Springboks coach, with the subtlety of a drunk trying to sneak quietly through the front door, had only one intention this week and that was to overtly influence the thinking of referees at this tournament.
He didn't need the actual truth to do that, just his version of it and a conviction that he could successfully pull it off by making the rambling and bizarre claim that as the All Blacks are no longer the number one team, they should no longer, by right, win the benefit of the doubt from officials.
The crassness of his ploy was what irked All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who gave the impression he was disappointed more by the way the message was delivered rather than the message itself.
Erasmus is a man whom Hansen respects but there will be an element of awkwardness between them now, the sort that has brewed between friends when one has declared their admiration for Donald Trump.
But the actual claim itself won't have resonated for the simple reason it is baseless and unoriginal.
It sits without a shred of evidence to back it up, whereas the All Blacks would say they hold a dossier, phone book-thick, of examples where they have been victimised in the last decade for being the number one team.
Being dominant hasn't won them favours, it has won them enemies. The global rugby fraternity hasn't loved being thumped by the All Blacks or loved seeing them win back-to-back World Cups.
And their case to prove that would begin with the powerful injustice that arose in the final test of the series with the Lions.
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The story of how referee Romain Poite was persuaded to cancel the penalty he had awarded the All Blacks in the last minute and instead give them a scrum is embedded in rugby folklore.
Not so well known is that in the post-series debrief, World Rugby's referee boss Alain Roland supposedly closed matters by saying: "Wrong decision, right result."
It's a comment that is believed to have sat uncomfortably with the New Zealand Rugby hierarchy as it fits the bigger picture that has formed since the last World Cup, if not longer, that the All Blacks' domination has not been viewed as universally good for the game.
"Wrong decision, right result" encapsulates the sentiment which has been hanging over rugby since as far back as 2012 – this feeling that the game needed a change of narrative, new heroes and new champions.
When the the Lions toured in 2017 there was almost a desperation everywhere except New Zealand to see definitive proof that the All Blacks were beatable, or at least vulnerable.
Heading into 2016 without the legendary Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter and no Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, there was widespread expectation the All Blacks would regress.
The world order would change and competition and interest would be re-ignited. But the All Blacks went up a level not down, posted a world record 18th consecutive victory and looked, unbelievably, a better team than they had been.
They hammered the Boks and Wallabies with such ease that even their former coach Graham Henry suggested test football had become somewhat dull on account of the lack of intrigue.
An endless procession of All Backs victories was not fostering global interest in the sport, while at the same time financial realities were biting in the Northern Hemisphere as costs mounted and interest waned.
Such a state of affairs was clearly causing some panic in the halls of rugby power. How would the game generate the necessary financial base to sustain itself if no one believed the All Blacks could be beaten?
From where would the next generation of fans be found if all anyone saw was the All Blacks predictably beating the best of the rest by embarrassing margins?
"Wrong decision, right result," says everything about the subliminal pressure referees may have been under in the past few years, if not longer to rule in such a way as to make the rugby landscape more compelling.
The statistics support the view entirely that the All Blacks have certainly not had a charmed existence in the period in which they have dominated.
The same accusation about favourable treatment was made in 2016 by the Wallabies and the Irish and yet what the numbers showed then, was that the All Blacks were one of the most heavily penalised teams.
In the 60 tests the All Blacks played between 2012 and 2016, they were penalised 47 more times than their opponents, the count being 616 to 569. In 35 of the 60 games, the All Blacks had an equal or higher penalty count, while they received the most yellow cards, picking up 28.
On average New Zealand were receiving a yellow card for every 15 offences committed, while Australia were being carded for every 18 offences and South Africa for every 21. Ireland, were the team with the best ratio – being carded for every 37 penalties they committed.
The picture didn't change much, if it all, in 2017 when the All Blacks finished the season as the most penalised and carded tier one nation.
They picked up nine cards in one season which could have been a reflection of the pressure they were under or it could have been a reflection of the prevailing mood to see them knocked off their perch.
It is a fallacy that the All Blacks have been protected – that they have won 50:50 decisions that have gone their way simply because of who they are and what they have achieved.
In the last four years they have arguably had two lucky breaks. The first was in 2016 when Malakai Fekitoa should have been red carded not yellow carded for a high tackle on Simon Zebo in Dublin.
A judiciary panel agreed the tackle met the threshold for red. The other incident was last year at Twickenham when England had a late try disallowed when it was ruled Courtney Lawes had charged down a kick from an offside position. It was marginal rather than clear and obvious.
The truth as it stands backed by fact is not the one pushed by Erasmus, which is why, ultimately, his comments won't hurt the All Blacks.
The statistics show that the All Blacks have not relied on favourable decision-making by referees to sustain their period of domination.
They haven't survived on the back of marginal calls going their way. That's all in the heads of others who have decided to see what they want to see when it suits them.