South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has attempted to defuse a row over comments he made about referees favouring the All Blacks in the first two Tri-Nations tests for the benefit of next year's World Cup.
De Villiers was upset with the refereeing by Irish officials in the two Springboks defeats in New Zealand and unhappy that a third referee from Ireland had been selected for Saturday's test against Australia in Brisbane. "I've got my own observations about the last two tests, and I can't say it in public," the coach said on Australian television on Wednesday.
"But we do have a World Cup in New Zealand next year, and maybe it was the right thing for them to win the games so they can attract more people to the games next year."
In statement released on Friday by the South Africa Rugby Union (SARU), however, de Villiers denied "in any manner" suggesting the All Blacks were being favoured because New Zealand was hosting the 2011 World Cup.
"While I have also expressed unhappiness over some refereeing issues, this is a separate matter altogether and has no bearing on what I said," he said.
"My comment during ... the interview was based on the general view that part of the success of any World Cup event rests on the fact that the host nation has a winning team.
"Nevertheless, I regret that this may have created the wrong impression."
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Beijing, editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)