JOHANNESBURG - Facing the defending champions, the All Blacks, first-up at the World Cup in 2019 in Japan is a good thing, according to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
He said his side’s knowledge of their oldest enemy could be beneficial when the teams meet in the opening game of Pool B in Tokyo on Saturday, September 21.
“It’s a real blockbuster and will hopefully set the standard for the tournament,” enthused Coetzee after the draw had been made in Japan.
“The big thing is when you play the No 1 team in the world first-up you’re going to have to be prepared properly, you’re going to have to hit the ground running.
“Fortunately, we have played the All Blacks enough times to know what to expect, and if you take our performance against them last time out, at Newlands a few weeks ago (when the Boks lost by a single point), a lot of confidence will have been taken out of that game.”
Coetzee though said his side still had to win all seven games at the tournament if they wanted to be crowned champions afterwards.
“The reality is facing the All Blacks first or later makes no difference; you’ve got to win all seven to go all the way. All our opponents will be formidable; Italy beat us last year then.
"We respect all the teams at the World Cup, but yes, facing New Zealand first will help us somewhat in our planning and preparation, but that’s all.”
The tournament will run from Friday, September 20 to November 2.
Following the New Zealand game, the Boks’ next match will be against Africa’s top qualifying team, most probably Namibia, on September 28, and then in their third game they’ll be up against Italy on Friday, October 4.
The final group game will be against the repechage winner on Tuesday, October 8.
Coetzee, who coached in Japan for a season before taking the Bok job in April 2016, said his knowledge of the country may be beneficial.
“I’ve got a fair understanding of the logistics in the country and how things work. Also, at that time of the year there’s likely to be a bit of rain around, with humidity, but the stadiums are beautiful, the pitches perfect. The team that adapts best to the conditions will be tough to beat.”