Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Six Players to Watch : New Zealand vs South Africa | Rugby World Cup

Six Players to Watch : New Zealand vs South Africa | Rugby World Cup

Ben Smith goes up for the ball during the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship rugby

With arguably the game of the pool phase set to kick-off on Saturday between arch-foes New Zealand and South Africa, Shaun Goosen looks at six players who may just shape the outcome of the contest.

Photo Copyright Steve Haag Sport - Hollywoodbets 

New Zealand

Ben Smith: 
The 33-year-old Smith has come under fire of late following some below par performances in the Rugby Championship; particularly in the All Blacks’ record 47-26 loss to the Wallabies in Perth. “Mr Dependable” was subsequently dropped for Bledisloe 2 but returned for the 92-7 thumping of Tonga earlier this month. Set to return to the starting XV this weekend, Smith will look to prove his doubters wrong with a display more befitting of his undeniable class and successfully deal with any Handre Pollard territorial kicking.

Dane Coles: 
Coles hasn’t played much rugby over the past four years, with injuries continually striking him down. The wily hooker will look to make up for that lost time by putting in a big shift this tournament – starting with Saturday’s clash with the Boks. On his day Coles is an absolute menace in both open play and at the breakdown, and he will need to have a big say if the Kiwis are to assume control of their playoff destiny.

Ryan Crotty: 
Crotty made a successful return from injury in the AB's big win over Tonga in Hamilton having been out since the semi-finals of Super Rugby. There’s no doubting just how crucial he is to New Zealand’s game, both with and without ball in hand, and his presence in midfield will be a big plus as his side look to gain an early psychological advantage in the tournament.

South Africa

Handre Pollard: 
Pollard is arguably the one man coach Rassie Erasmus simply cannot afford to lose this tournament, with his all-round ability absolutely vital to the Springbok’s title hopes. The Montpellier-bound flyhalf always seems to save his best displays for games against the AB's and his performance on the weekend, particularly with wet weather expected, could be the difference in the end.

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 
The Stormers loose forward has been immense once again in 2019, putting in some typically monstrous displays for both club and country. Possessing an almost Juan Smith-like ability to seemingly be everywhere at once, his mobility and physicality will go a long way to nullifying the threats of Kieran Read and Ardie Savea this weekend.

Willie le Roux: 
If there are indeed torrential conditions in Yokohama on Saturday, le Roux’s tactical kicking and positional play will need to be textbook. The 56-capped fullback will have to summon all his experience of dealing with wet weather in England to diffuse any potential Beauden Barrett high bombs and perhaps execute a few of his own.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets