South Africa have always been built on a powerful pack and that is a key element in a World Cup where matches tend to be tight and hard-fought. Eramus has also gained success with a powerful blitz defence and the Boks have not conceded more than 20 points in any of their last seven games.
Fly-half Handre Pollard is in the form of his life, scoring a personal-best 31 points in the 46-13 defeat over Argentina in August, and the Boks have also unearthed some attacking gems in wingers Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi and S’busiso Nkosi, none of whom have more than ten caps but have 20 tries between them.
And the big plus for South Africa is that they are in the same pool as tournament favourites New Zealand, alongside Italy, Canada and Namibia, none of whom should prove any kind of obstacle.
Then the teams will be kept apart until the final and none of South Africa’s probable knockout-stage opponents should cause them any fears.
In their last three matches with the All Blacks, South Africa have won by two points, lost by two and drawn the most recent encounter.
The Rugby World Cup isn’t a tournament for outsiders – only four countries have ever won it and the last time a team from outside the elite top tier reached the knockout stage was in 2007, when Fiji pipped Wales to second spot in their pool.
For a tier-two side just to reach the quarter-finals counts as a shock in this tournament and the team who look best placed to do so are hosts Japan.
Their schedule works out perfectly, with Russia, one of the weakest sides in the tournament, first up and Scotland, the team they will have the best chance of beating to take second spot, in the last pool-stage encounter.
The Brave Blossoms famously beat South Africa four years ago and have a high level of experience against elite teams, having played 13 Tests against tier-one nations in the four years since the last World Cup.
They’ve won only one of those – against Italy – but they’ve also drawn with France, they led England at half-time at Twickenham last November, and they lost by just five points the last time they faced Scotland.
The starting place for a tryscorer bet at the World Cup is always the New Zealand back three (wingers and full-back), but it may not be one of the obvious candidates who tops the charts
Jordie Barrett’s teammates Rieko Ioane and Sevu Reece head the betting and could well be the All Blacks’ starting wingers for their opening clash with New Zealand.
But Barrett’s versatility – he has started at full-back and on the wing but also come on as centre or fly-half – means he may well feature from the bench and start the easier games, especially if coach Steve Hansen is looking to shield players from injury.
In their pool campaign New Zealand take on Namibia and Canada, the two lowest-ranked teams at the tournament, so those fixtures should offer an opportunity for fringe players to start and they will get the best opportunities to rack up a big try-haul.
The youngest of the three Barrett brothers in the New Zealand squad has only 12 caps and eight starts to his name but has bagged eight tries in that run of games including a four-try haul in last November’s Test against Italy, who are also pool-stage opponents for the All Blacks at the World Cup.