Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have backed New Zealand to beat South Africa and claim a record fourth World Cup title on Saturday.
As the All Blacks and Springboks, the defending champions, gear up for a seventh and final match in France, the former Australia backline stars weighed in with their predictions for the blockbuster clash at the Stade de France.
Speaking on the latest episode of The Good, The Bad & The Rugby from Paris, the Wallaby trio touched on the momentum of the Kiwis since losing to hosts France in their opener, as well as what it would take for the Boks to edge their old rivals.
“All Blacks! I just think they’ve been quality this whole tournament, been absolute class and got a lot of momentum,” Ashley-Cooper said. “They’ve been enjoying themselves and loving what they’re doing, and they’re doing it really, really well.
“Across the board they’ve all been performing and in big games you want your key players to stand up, but every one of their 15 is standing up.
“They’ve got threats across the park, guys like [Mark] Tele’a who can’t be tackled, all the Barretts are performing, the halves, 9 and 10, [Aaron] Smith and [Richie] Mo’unga are just directing the team around the park.
“I just don’t see them losing. As much as I think they’ll win, I want them to win, not because I’ve got anything against South Africa; I just think they deserve to win.”
Giteau believes the Bok coaches have to tweak their game plan for the decider and bring the backs more into the action, while Mitchell wants centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel to play a bigger role, especially with the impact of both sets of benches.
“I think South Africa need to find a different way to play [because] they’ve relied so heavily on bullying teams that I don’t think they can do that [against the All Blacks],” Giteau said.
“You saw when England stood up it’s almost like SA … you saw the first 50, 60 minutes it’s almost like they had no answers.
“Against the All Blacks they can play so many different ways, and their forward pack has been so dominant at this World Cup that I think they probably need to trust their backline a little bit more and play with a bit more risk.
“Looking at these two teams and the way they’ve been performing and heading into this final, New Zealand is the favourites.”
Mitchell added: “There’s so much to like about this New Zealand side and the way they’re playing, and how accurate they are and the momentum they’ve got.
“I feel like the bench could be pretty crucial; you’ve got Fletcher Newell, Tamaiti Williams the props, [flanker Dalton] Papali’i, [scrumhalf] Finlay Christie… because the impact that [Deon] Fourie, Kwagga [Smith], Faf [de Klerk] had [against England] sort of makes me want to sway towards the Bokkes…
“Ah yeah, they [New Zealand] have to be the favourites, looking at this weekend’s performance. And to [Giteau’s] point, we didn’t see enough of De Allende and Kriel [against England] get over the advantage line.
“The bench makes me feel like the Boks, but I’m going with the All Blacks.”
Photo: World Rugby