Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Springboks have been gifted a relatively easy pool and
are overwhelming favourites to finish top. Samoa and Scotland will be backing
themselves to secure the other quarter-final spot, but they will be met by a
spirited Japanese side who are under the guidance of former Wallabies coach
World ranking – 3
Best WC – Winners (1995, 2007)
A woeful end to the Rugby Championship campaign combined
with a Cosatu-fuelled attack on the transformation policies of the side has not
made for ideal preparation. Injuries have also meant that the Boks go into the
tournament with a number of key players who have not played much or any rugby
in the international season. But, the Boks will always be there or thereabouts and
they will command the respect and attention of every other team at the tournament.
World ranking – 12
Best WC – QFs (1991, 1995)
Many consider Samoa to be South Africa’s toughest opposition
in the group, but it is likely to be their clash with Scotland on October 10
that determines who will join the Boks in the last eight. Samoa have promised
much for many years but have failed to build on their quarter-final appearances
from 1991 and 1995. This tournament presents them with their best opportunity
in a while to get out of their group.
World ranking – 13
Best WC – Pool stages (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007,
Having participated in every World Cup to date, Japan have
never once progressed out of the group stages. That is unlikely to change in
2015, despite being under the mentorship of former Wallabies boss Eddie Jones.
What will be important, though, is that Japan show a marked improvement in
their game given that they are the hosts for the 2019 edition. They have an
opportunity to do that with a resilient display against the Boks on Saturday.
World ranking – 10
Best WC – 4th (1991)
Scotland are a proud rugby nation, but performances in
recent years have seen them slip down the pecking order - so much so that there
is doubt over their ability to get out of the group stages in 2015. Samoa are
the obvious obstacle, but the Scots might take some heart from playing in
northern hemisphere conditions. The first hurdle for them will be getting over
the line in a potentially tricky clash with the Japanese.
World ranking – 15
Best WC – Pool stages (1987, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011)
A lot of money is being spent on developing the game in
America, but the benefits of that are yet to be seen on the field. They will be
eyeing their match against Japan as their best chance of a win, but will also
back their chances of causing an upset against Samoa or Scotland. But the smart
money will be on the ‘stars and stripes’ finishing bottom of the pool.