It is the game the world has been waiting for. Well, the rugby union world at least, as holders South Africa take on world number one Ireland in arguably the match of the pool phase of the Rugby World Cup.

The pair have been on a collision course ever since the draw was made in 2020 and both are entitled to feel they have a chance to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Ireland are arguably the best-attacking team in the world, while the Springboks have the most brutal defensive system on the planet.

With the winner of Pool B likely to avoid facing hosts France until at least the final, it will be a bruising encounter in Paris but one that Ireland can get the better of.

South Africa vs Ireland Prediction

  • Ireland to win @ 11/10
  • Mack Hansen anytime tryscorer @ 7/4

Team news

A big talking point has been the Boks’ decision to select a seven-one split on the bench, with scrum-half Cobus Reinach their only available backline replacement.

The decision to call up fly-half Handre Pollard as the injury replacement for Malcolm Marx in the squad has left the onus on Deon Fourie to cover both the front row and back rows both on Saturday and going forward in the tournament.

It also hints that South Africa are unlikely to throw the ball around and will look to maintain their physicality for 80 minutes by regenerating their pack around the 50-minute mark.

Ireland’s 23 is almost as good as it gets, with back-rower Jack Conan’s foot injury allowing Ryan Baird in on the bench.

They are also boosted by Dan Sheehan’s return for his first appearance of the tournament after overcoming his own foot issue. He will act as cover for fellow Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher.

Ireland to win @ 11/10

A series victory in New Zealand? Tick. A clean sweep in the autumn, including beating South Africa? Tick. A Six Nations Grand Slam? Tick.

Ireland have done it all over the last 15 months and are now looking to put their nation’s rugby demons behind them by making a first-ever Rugby World Cup semi-final.

There remain doubts over their physicality but they are otherwise exceptional and have been boosted by the return of captain Johnny Sexton.

Not only is the 38-year-old their leader, but he is also their primary playmaker and crucially, goal-kicker. That is somewhere they have an edge on the Boks, with South Africa number 10 Manie Libbock’s sole weakness being off the tee.

Scrum-half Faf de Klerk has kicked for goal, as has wing Cheslin Kolbe. However, in what could prove to be an arm wrestle, especially if the Boks look to play a tight game decided by penalties, Sexton’s boot could be the difference.

Mack Hansen anytime tryscorer @ 7/4

Another point of difference for Ireland is Mack Hansen. The Springbok wingers, Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse are fantastic, possessing not just pace and footwork but also fabulous ball skills.

Ireland’s left wing James Lowe is another standout player but the man on the other side, Hansen, is a different type of player.

While he does not possess the same fleet of foot, he arguably has better handling and a superior kicking game, as demonstrated by his cross-field assist for Garry Ringrose’s try against England in August.

The 25-year-old’s outgoing demeanour means he is one of the most popular players in the game. That sometimes leads to him being underestimated but he grabbed a try last Saturday against Tonga.

Hansen also touched down against the Boks last November, displaying his intelligence by holding his width when Ireland found space and his nous for the line makes him a real contender to cross again.

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