The Springboks will be hoping to be at their best when they take on New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday. Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Hollywoodbets
CAPE TOWN 
– It’s almost too close to call because there is so little separating the Springboks and All Blacks’ class of 2019.

I do, however, feel the Boks have edged ahead of the defending champions and that man-for-man, Rassie Erasmus’s team is stronger and has more belief in what they are doing as a unit.

Right now every forward in the Bok starting team (and even some players on the bench) is better than their New Zealander counterpart. At the back, there’s nothing in it, either.

The Boks go into the game as a settled combination, with no uncertainties around a game-plan and every player knows and backs the man next to him.

Coach Erasmus has made sure of this by selecting and backing the same players for two years now.

The Boks, crucially, have the power and strength up front, they have the kicking game, and they have the best defence in the world. They’re also in fantastic physical shape and have a bench that’s good enough to start on any day. They’ll go the full distance with the All Blacks.

Where there was once trepidation in the Bok players ahead of a New Zealand Test, there is now hunger, desire, confidence - and a belief they’ll win.

Prediction: Boks to win 25-20

Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard and his All Blacks counterpart Richie Mo’unga will face off in their Rugby World Cup opener in Yokohama, Japan, today and their personal battle will be crucial to the outcome of this eagerly anticipated clash of the titans. Photo: Sydney Mahlangiu/ BackpagePix

The last occasion these two teams met in a World Cup match, the All Blacks snuck home 20-18 in the 2015 semi-final, the difference between the sides being a Dan Carter drop goal.

I am convinced the score will be similar this year - especially because rain is predicted, which should mean a relatively low-scoring affair - but I am going to stick my neck out and predict that this time it will be the Boks finishing on the positive side of the 20-18 ledger.

I have been reading this week that the Kiwis are going to explode out of their pre-World Cup slumber and smash the Boks, and while that is certainly a viable scenario, it is not going to happen. Why? Because the Bok pack is superior to their opposition which will mean the Kiwi game won’t operate at its customary high octane levels.

And, because this is the best prepared Springbok team ever to contest a World Cup. They got to Japan 10 days earlier than any other team, warmed up against the hosts in an invaluable match and have perfectly acclimatised to conditions.

I predict this will be an arm wrestle in the rain, with box kicks unfortunately prevailing, and that Handré Pollard will kick the winning penalty.

Prediction: Boks to win 20-18

The All Blacks pivit Richie Mo’unga will face off with handre Pollard in their Rugby World Cup opener in Yokohama, Japan, today and their personal battle will be crucial to the outcome of this eagerly anticipated clash of the titans. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.Photosport.nz

There will be life for both teams regardless of the result today but the road to the final will be marginally easier for the winner of the Springboks’ World Cup opener against the All Blacks.

The Springboks have confidence and are a more settled team than the All Blacks. I don’t believe the conditions will allow for a free-flowing, all out attacking game from either team. The conditions will favour South Africa’s potent pack and I expect the Bok forwards to dominate the line-out and scrum.

The Boks also have a decided line-out advantage because of New Zealand’s decision to pick two specialist openside flankers in Sam Cane and Adri Savea. Both don’t have a line-out presence.

The Bok halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard are the form pairing this season and their kicking game has been outstanding. The Boks will play field position and percentage rugby and this will be as important as possession.

There is nothing to separate the teams in terms of quality and player for player the match-ups are even. It is going to be close and there will only be one score in it, but that score will favour the Springboks.

Prediction: Boks to win 24-20

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