Cape Town – Despite their shock Rugby Championship defeat to the Springboks in Wellington last weekend, the All Blacks are still heavy favourites to complete a hat-trick of Rugby World Cup victories in Japan next year.
The Springboks stunned the rugby world when they put in a brave defensive effort in repelling the New Zealanders to record just their 36th win in 96 Tests against their fiercest foes.
The Boks had to make do with a paltry 24.7% of possession and were asked to make 235 tackles (to just 61 from the All Blacks) in winning 36-34 to keep their faint hopes of a first Rugby Championship title alive.
Despite the loss, leading South African bookmakers Sportingbet are still big believers in Steve Hansen’s New Zealander’s adding a third consecutive World Cup title to their cabinet, after successes at home in 2011 and in England in 2015.
The All Blacks have been installed as 91/100 favourites, followed by Ireland (9/2) and England (13/2).
The Wallabies and Springboks are next best at 8/1, followed by Wales and France (both 20/1) and Argentina (25/1).
Victory, in what will be the ninth edition of the World Cup, would be a fourth overall for New Zealand, having also won the very first tournament (at home) in 1987.
To spice up matters somewhat, the All Blacks and Springboks have been drawn in the same pool for next year’s tournament, and will face each other in Pool B’s opening pool match (Saturday, September 21 in Tokyo) – some 368 days away.