New Zealand start Rugby World Cup campaign with stirring haka

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New Zealand have started their 2019 Rugby World Cup with a fittingly electrifying haka, as they open their campaign against a reinvigorated South African side. 

The haka, one of world sports most recognisable performances, has been near synonymous with the New Zealand rugby team ever since its debut in a tour of the UK and Australia in 1888.

A showing of their lack of fear and strength, the tradition originates from Maori culture, in which a haka would often be performed to either honour a distinguished guest - or challenge a rival in battle. 

The All Blacks come into this much anticipated curtain-raiser looking to win a record-extending third successive World Cup title - having claimed both the 2011 and 2015 titles.

Standing in their way, however, is a Springbok side reborn under current coach Rassie Erasmus, who, over the last year, has transformed the two-time title holders into genuine contenders once again.

New Zealand possess one of the most incredible records in rugby history, with the All Blacks having won every one of their 28 World Cup pool games from the previous 32 years.

Despite this dominance, however, many are viewing the clash with South Africa as one of the biggest challenges faced by the All Blacks in decades.

Having lost their previous match - The Rugby Championship Final - to bitter rivals Australia in August, Steve Hansen's side have only suffered consecutive defeats on one occasion over the past 10 years. 

Many have also argued that the All Blacks so often come into their best when there is more on the line to lose, and therefore more to be gained from once again asserting themselves as the dominant force in world rugby. 

If there is one team in the world, however, who are up to the task of dethroning the champions, it is Erasmus' South Africa.

The former Flanker has brought a new belief and self-confidence to a side that has previously been looking short of the top-class pedigree needed to succeed on the world stage. 

Now, however, just over 18 months on from his appointment, the Springboks once again look back to the best, having claimed the 2019 Rugby Championship - a tournament widely expected to be won by the defending All Black side. 

In fact, over their last four encounters, Hansen's New Zealand have triumphed just twice, and by a margin of only one and two points. 

South Africa, on the other hand, beat their Southern Hemisphere rivals 36-34 in their 2018 Rugby Championship clash, whilst their most recent encounter - a repeat of the fixture in the 2019 tournament - ended in a feisty 16-16 draw. 

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