Is this pool match the unofficial Rugby World Cup Final?
The long-awaited kickoff has arrived, with Japan running out victors over the Russians just as expected in the opening match – albeit in unconvincing fashion in a very scrappy affair. Hat-trick hero Kotaru Matsushima was the star of the show, although there were several other strong performances. To whet the rugby enthusiast’s appetite a little more, we have been given a couple of interesting match-ups in Fiji versus the Wallabies Wallabies and France versus Argentina as the pre-entertainment to the main event later this evening.
The Wallabies may be a little worried about this Test but considering they are on a 14-match winning streak over the Fijians, it will be a tough ask for the Pacific Islanders to register a win here. But this is rugby and stranger things have happened, if the bounce of the ball goes their way and if they can upset the set piece you never know. Moving onto tonight’s game in what many describe as the greatest rivalry in rugby, the All Blacks up against the Springboks. It’s by far the most anticipated fixture of the opening round and for good reason.
These two rugby-mad nations have clashed four times previously in Rugby World Cup history, always in the knock-out stages, with the ledger currently standing at two games apiece. The last meeting came in the 2015 semi-final when New Zealand prevailed 20-18 in a heart-in-your-mouth encounter involving a sin bin each, a Dan Carter drop goal and two tries to nil in the victors’ favour. The All Blacks have never lost a pool stage game, winning all 28 such fixtures, and will be looking to keep that record in tack. South Africa have only lost two of their 22 group matches, one of which came at the last World Cup against Japan in possibly the greatest shock in tournament history.
The last four encounters between these two have been decided by a margin of no greater than two points, including a 16-16 draw in their most recent clash in Wellington. But before any of you South African fans get too confident, remember the match before these four the Springboks failed to register a point, in a 57-0 drubbing in New Zealand.
Both teams have named strong squads to take the field this evening:
New Zealand B Barrett, Reece, Lienert-Brown, Crotty, Bridge, Mo’unga, Smith, Moody, Coles, Laulala, Whitelock, S Barrett, Savea, Cane, Read (c).
Replacements: Taylor, Tu’ungafasi, Ta’avao, Tuipulotu, Frizell, Perenara, Williams, Smith.
South Africa Le Roux, Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi, Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Marx, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (c), Du Toit, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Mbonambi, Mtawarira, Nyakane, Snyman, Louw, H Jantjies, Steyn, Kriel.