This is it. The big one. The biggest game, in any of the pools, has been served up to us early. This clash would be fitting of a final itself and many believe, come the first weekend in November, it could very well be.
The two most successful sides in Rugby World Cup history face off in what is sure to be a titanic battle. New Zealand have never lost a Pool game in the World Cup, averaging a staggering 46 points on the way. I don’t foresee them pushing that number any higher this weekend however.
Indeed, when these two sides met in the Rugby Championship this season they drew 16-16. This is where I see this tie going.
Paddy’s priced it at 20/1 and it is too good to ignore.
Former Munster defence coach Jacques Nienaber has his South African charges playing with an aggressive line-speed and they managed to restrict this free flowing All-Black side to just one try in that contest back in July.
With the handicap favouring the champions All-Blacks by six, everyone sees this as a one-score game. It is going to be tight, hard fought and with little room for error.
For me, this is screaming a draw.
Selection: A draw at 20/1.
The man with the flowing locks could very well turn out to be the game-changer in this tie. Arguably the form scrum-half in the World, the Sale Sharks number nine is crucial to all that South Africa do.
He is their main focal point in attack with his box-kicking game, while his distribution speed at ruck time adds an extra dynamic to the behemoths in front of him in the Springbok pack. Throw in his role in defence and you have a complete player for Rassie Erasmus’ side.
The main threat that de Klerk poses however is his ability to snipe around rucks and at the back of mauls and line-outs. If South Africa are to get a foothold in this game, they are going to have to do so through sheer forward power and by winning the territorial battle.
Should the Springbok pack make their way into the New Zealand 22, keep and eye out for the golden-haired speedster as he looks for the whitewash.
This will be the most physical encounter of the opening Pool games this weekend. Indeed, judging by their meetings in the past, this could be the most brutal of all the games at the World Cup. Two sides, who both like to put pressure on skills in defence with their line speeds, are also two sides who ‘like’ to tackle high.
Enter, Mr Jerome Garces. The All-Blacks have been shown two red cards in the professional era. Both by Mr Garces. The French referee is not afraid to make the big calls on the big days. He will not be different here. Should someone mis-time a tackle, it happens to us all, then the red will follow soon after.
Selection: Red card to be shown
*Prices correct at time of publishing