So poorly did the Boks perform last year, that they are in line to potentially be drawn into the pool of death, alongside back-to-back world champions, New Zealand, and Argentina, who have slipped to ninth in the rankings, as well as two from Samoa, Fiji or Tonga.
That would be the worst case scenario for coach Allister Coetzee, but even if the Boks don’t end up in the same pool as the All Blacks, they will be drawn in a pool with either England, Australia or Ireland.
These three teams, along with Steve Hansen’s outfit, form the top band, or top seeds, to head up the four pools.
South Africa, because they have slipped so much in the world rankings after the disasters of the 2016 season, are in band two with Scotland, France and Wales.
Band three consists of Argentina, Italy, Georgia and Japan - the slayers of the Boks in Brighton at the last World Cup.
The remaining eight teams - who’ll effectively make up bands four and five and will come from the likes of North America, Europe, the Pacific Islands and possibly Namibia - have yet to be decided to finalise the 20 competing teams.
The make-up of the draw will thus see five teams divided into four pools - A, B, C and D - with New Zealand, England, Australia and Ireland the top seeds.
World Rugby have, like for the last World Cup, retained the policy of seeding based on the world rankings at a relatively arbitrary point in the calendar, rather than established pedigree or previous World Cup success.
“The format of seeding teams for the ... pool draw using the World Rugby rankings is a credible, succinct and proven method that reflects form, stimulates interest and is backed by our unions,” World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont told Reuters at the weekend.
The result is a draw that has no less risk of a pool that would end the ambitions of one of the few teams that will go into the tournament with a serious chance of winning it.
The 2019 tournament, to be played across 12 cities in Japan between September 20 and November 2, 2019, will be the first outside what is called the heartland of the sport, with the final set to be hosted at the International Stadium in Yokohama.