Tokyo — The Springboks have called on French referee Jerome Garces to treat them as equals during this weekend’s opening pool B clash with defending champions New Zealand.

Assistant SA coach Mzwandile Stick said that with the gap between the All Blacks and their potential rivals for the Webb Ellis Cup closing, match officials should be consistent in how they apply the laws to all teams.

In the past, World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw — a wizard in the loose — was often accused of influencing referees to rule in his favour at the breakdown.

“The fans are excited by this one and looking forward to it,” former SA sevens specialist Stick said of the Saturday’s showdown in Yokohama. “Hopefully the officials maybe will treat everything equally and respect the game and also respect the fans.”

SA topped New Zealand in this year’s Rugby Championship and Ireland are ranked world No 1, but Stick said the All Blacks remain the team to beat.

“If you look at history when it comes to the All Blacks, they’ve been dominating at Test level and it’s always the case that whenever they go to the World Cup they are favourites,” he said.

Top-ranked Ireland suffered a record defeat to England before beating Wales twice in warm-up Tests.

“If you look at the top five teams now in world rankings, you feel any of them have a chance to win the World Cup on their day,” Stick said. “It’s been a proper build-up towards this World Cup.”

Recent history between the Boks, who are blooming under coach Rassie Erasmus, and Steve Hansen’s All Blacks promises to make for a tight encounter on Saturday.

“Things are a lot more balanced between us and New Zealand right now,” Stick said. “We can’t ask for any better build-up towards the World Cup: if you look at the last three games we played against the All Blacks, in Wellington last year we won by two points, they came to Pretoria and won by two points, and then we drew against them again this year in Wellington.

“We’re looking forward to this challenge, it’s going to be a tough one against one of the best teams in the world and given the history between the two teams.”