Rugby World Cup: New Zealand v South Africa / France v Argentina5 min read
Two of the favourites for the Rugby World Cup will meet in a huge showdown on the opening weekend of the competition in Japan. New Zealand are bidding to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the third successive time while South Africa have designs on winning the tournament for the third time.
All Blacks far from invincible
New Zealand have dominated the last two World Cups but there is the feeling the favourites could be toppled this time after an unconvincing build-up to the competition. Gone are the likes of serial winners Dan Carter and Richie McCaw and while there is still an abundance of world class talent, the team does appear to have some weaknesses.
The All Blacks were beaten 47-26 by Australia last month and only finished third in this summer’s Rugby Championship. The first signs of their fallibility came in the defeat to Ireland last November and New Zealand have lost three of their last 13 matches.
Resurgent Springboks on the rise
South Africa, on the other hand, are flying and have not lost since November after winning the Rugby Championship. The Springboks were in turmoil a couple of years ago but the appointment of Rassie Erasmus has made a massive difference in turning their form around.
The Springboks have a potent blend of physical strength in their forwards and a lethal combination of finishers in the backline with the emergence of Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi.
South Africa’s memorable 36-34 win in New Zealand last year provided a huge boost to their belief and they have built on this in 2019. The most recent clash between the powerhouses ended in a 16-16 draw and the Springboks no longer appear to be intimidated by the world champions. There has been no more than two points between the teams in the last four clashes and this game could be just as tight.
With momentum on the Springboks’ side, it is worth siding with the outsiders to make a statement with an opening win against the All Blacks at 15/8.
France v Argentina
France have twice reached the World Cup final but it is anyone’s guess whether this erratic team can produce an extended run in Japan. Les Bleus have been dogged by inconsistency in recent years although there have been signs the young talents in their side have the potential to flourish.
Toulouse pair Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont will form the half-back partnership in this opener while exciting wing Damian Penaud offers a cutting edge which could propel them into the quarter-finals alongside pool favourites England.
Pumas could struggle to arrest their slide
Argentina overcame Ireland four years ago to reach the semi-finals but this Pumas team come into the tournament struggling for form.
Admittedly some of their games have been against the likes of New Zealand and South Africa but Argentina have lost their last nine Tests and this does not bode well for their hopes in Japan.
Marginal favourites France have won the last two games against the Pumas with their most recent victory in November by 15 points. With Argentina’s current struggles, this looks a good time for France to face them and the European side are worth backing to be ahead at half-time and full-time in Tokyo at 13/10.
South Africa to win
France / France in the Half-Time/Full Time market