Three-time champions New Zealand kick-start their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign against the SpringBok in what is expected to be a thrilling encounter.
And it’ll be played at the 70,000 capacity International Stadium Yokohama – incidentally also where the final will be staged.
The two teams have been difficult to separate coming into the tournament and in previous clashes. So much so, that our New Zealand vs South Africa predictions are expecting this Sunday’s clash to be just as evenly matched.
Yet here’s where we flip the tables.
With a young South Africa side coming up against the experience of the All Blacks, it’s more than likely that the reigning champions will edge the proceedings.
Whether this is an omen for standings further down the competition is anyone’s guess. You can read ours in our 2019 Rugby World Cup predictions.
Scroll on down to read our projections…
New Zealand vs South Africa Predictions
This weekend’s clash sees two Rugby World Cup heavy-hitters lock horns on the first group-stage game.
It’s a particularly interesting one as both teams come into the tournament in contrasting form. The champions very rarely put a foot wrong in the warm-up games, showing why they have claimed international glory for themselves three times.
But the Springbok’s are in a turbulent period. Despite possessing star players, their defeats to England and Australia prior to the games exposed defensive instabilities.
Their loss to Eddie Jones’ men put a dampener on the kind of form that the likes of Cheswin Kolbe and Aphiwe Dyantyi posed. Instead, the Three Lions found gaps to exploit in and around the backline.
Nevertheless, Kolbe is one that the Kiwis backline will need to keep an eye on. The South African is blessed with great pace, vision and the ability to penetrate defences and score quickly. Such is his skill and talent that our New Zealand vs South Africa predictions are expecting him to be amongst the early scoring this Saturday.
But for all of South Africa’s young attacking talent, they’ll be facing a side who enter this Autumn’s tournaments without any hiccups.
Wins over just about every single team they faced including England is enough to suggest that this will be a mammoth task for Rassie Erasmus’ men.
True, the 1-16 draw in Wellington in July suggests it’ll be very tight indeed. However, the All Blacks possess that extra firepower that’ll allow them to topple one of the tournament’s favourites to win.
A win is definitely on the cards for the not-so-invincibles. But you can bet your lucky stars that it’ll be worth punting on a close contest.
New Zealand vs South Africa Head To Head
Even the head-to-head stats are pretty even. Which provides further fuel for our New Zealand vs South Africa predictions.
Indeed, in the last three fixtures between the two teams, there’s been one win per side. The remaining draw meant that there’s also an identical aggregate score across the three games (82-82).
Yet, the All Blacks do edge things in the overall proceedings. Steve Hansen men have claimed 58 wins in the 98 games between the two sides down the year.
This Sunday’s clash at the Yokohama can only follow the same theme: tightly-contested, points galore, last-minute drama.
New Zealand Team News
The All Blacks don’t have many notable injuries to report, which won’t give the South Africans reasons to be cheerful.
Aside from the absence of Luke Jacobson (recovering from a concussion) and Brodie Rettalick (suffering a shoulder injury), Hansen will be able to field a pretty strong side.
That includes the impressive Beauden Barrett. As the player most opposition defences dread playing, Hansen will need to decide where he plays him.
Whether it’s at fly-half where Barrett will be able to be more creative, or as a fullback to bring pace and width into the Kiwis game will be interesting to find out.
Wherever he plays, our New Zealand vs South Africa predictions are expecting him to be ruthless on the front foot.
South Africa Team News
Meanwhile, the SpringBok also have few absences to write up. Which means that all the ingredients are present for a nervy clash.
The return of Trevor Nyakane to ensure this will be music to the ears of the travelling South African fans.
Alongside Franco Mostert and Eben Etzebeth, Erasmus will have his best chance to rattle the reigning champions.
New Zealand vs South Africa Betting Tips
The betting tipsters look to have agreed with our New Zealand vs South Africa predictions as the odds are just as evenly matched.
Still, the All Blacks are 9/20 betting favourites. Meanwhile, South Africa are operating as a 2/1 pick, while the chances of a draw in our New Zealand vs South Africa match bets are even more unlikely (25.1).
All evidence points to a dramatic pool B opening game – one that the reigning champions will edge.