Bakkies backs Boks to beat New Zealand
“People always focus on the first game and although you never run out in the green and gold to lose it won’t be the end of the world if we lose,” Botha said. “The team that finishes second on the log in our pool won’t have such a challenging route on the way to the final.
“Any team wants to start with a win to get that rhythm and momentum, but I am confident we can pull it off. We are the one team that can give the All Blacks a good run for their money.”
While the rivalry has tipped heavily in favour of New Zealand over the last few years, the Boks under the guidance of coach Rassie Erasmus have been making up ground. The last three matches between the teams have ended in a victory apiece and a draw in their most recent clash in the 2019 Rugby Championship.
Looking beyond the opening match, Botha believed the tournament had no clear favourites as was the case in 2011 and 2015 where the All Blacks came out on top.
“This is one of the World Cups where you can’t say one team stands out above the rest,” Botha said.
“That gap between the northern and southern hemisphere has narrowed quite a lot in a short period.
“I don’t think the All Blacks are standout favourites so it can go any way.”
The 2007 Rugby World Cup winner said Erasmus’ meticulous planning and the pedigree of the players was enough reason to be bullish about the team’s prospects at the quadrennial showpiece.
“When you compare apples with apples I believe we are in a much better space than we were at the 2015 World Cup,” Botha said.
New Zealand: 15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Sevu Reece, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Ardie Savea, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Sam Whitelock, 3-Nepu Laulala, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody
Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Ofa Tuungafasi, 18-Angus Ta’avao, 19-Patrick Tuipulotu, 20-Shannon Frizell, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Sonny Bill Williams, 23-Ben Smith.