The South African rugby team descend on New Zealand as current World Champions and, while not favourites, have a very good chance of defending their crown. Officially ranked third in the world, the Springboks have an impeccable pedigree in previous tournaments and boast a style of rugby perfectly matched for knock-out competition. South Africa will expect to top Pool D, which presents a stern physical challenge in the fiery Welsh, Samoan, Fijian and neighbouring Namibian teams, before progressing through the knock-out stages. Anything less than a semi-final berth would lead to serious repercussions for team and staff; however a probable semis clash with the All Blacks in their Eden Park Stronghold will provide the toughest test possible of their worthiness as champions.
South Africa is arguably the best-performed out of any nation in the World Cup theatre. Missing from the first two tournaments, a rejuvenated nation stunned the world in 1995 by winning at their first attempt; the boot of Joel Stransky kicked the Africans to victory throughout the tournament, scoring every point against a legendary All Blacks squad in the final. Semi- and quarter-final appearances followed before gritty consistency led to them claiming their second trophy in just four attempts in the 2007 French tournament. They arrive in reasonable form, having rested a large portion of their starting squad for away leg of the Tri-Nations before recording a solid victory against a young All Blacks outfit in August.
Known for their brutal forward packs and educated fly-halves, the South Africans specialise in the defensive, low-scoring battles that are synonymous with World Cup rugby. Enigmatic coach Peter De Villiers has named a squad that shares a wealth of experience, including crucial finals exposure in previous tournaments. Inspirational leader John Smit captains beside fellow centurion Victor Matfield in a massive pack epitomised by the might of Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha. Rising star Heinrich Brussow adds another dimension from the open-side flank after a series of outstanding international performances in recent times. The faultless boot of Morne Steyn will be heavily relied upon to complement the efforts of the pack; while the South Africans boast the outstanding talents of scrum-half Fourie du Preez to ignite a backline that also features the likes of try-scoring record seeker Bryan Habana.
South Africa open their defence against Wales of the 11th of September in the capital before matches against Fiji (17th), Namibia (22nd) and Samoa (30th) round out Pool D. Barring a historic upset, the Springboks will face the runner-up in Pool C on October 9th before a probable meeting with host nation New Zealand at Eden Park beckons on the 16th in a match which will ultimately define the favourites for the Cup final.