Record Springbok try-scorer Bryan Habana believes that despite two defeats in 2018‚ the All Blacks remain the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
The All Blacks have won the tournament three times – 1987‚ 2011 and 2015 – and are attempting to win it an impressive third time in a row.
Habana‚ who was a World Cup winner in 2007 and scored 67 Test tries‚ made the comments to a New Zealand media outlet.
“The All Blacks becoming the first team ever to win three World Cups in a row is very likely‚” Habana told stuff.co.nz.
“Ireland will go into this World Cup pretty confident. But‚ like all previous World Cups‚ I’m almost certain New Zealand will go into this World Cup as favourites.”
The All Blacks lost 36-34 against the Springboks in Wellington last year and then slumped to a first ever loss against Ireland in Dublin‚ going down 16-9 last November.
But despite those rare setbacks‚ the All Blacks remain formidable‚ especially in recent World Cups.
Since losing at the quarterfinal stage in 2007‚ New Zealand have won 14 out of 14 matches at the tournament and will still be the yardstick against which all teams measure themselves.
“I think they go into this World Cup knowing where they’ve let themselves down in 2018‚ knowing there is going to be quite a lot of work-ons‚ but knowing if they click they’re going to be a difficult side to beat in Japan‚” Habana said.
“Are there any weaknesses? It’s difficult to say. What we have seen in the last 18 months. .. when the All Blacks are pushed to the limit‚ when they are put under pressure‚ they do become human like everyone else and make mistakes.
“I think a lot of teams will be looking at how to put them under pressure‚ how to force them into making mistakes.”
The Springboks meet the All Blacks in both teams’ opening game of RWC 2019 the Yokohama Stadium on September 21.