The Springboks victory over the All Blacks last Saturday threw open World Cup predictions as the Kiwis attack philosophy failed against the traditional defence-based World Cup winning formula of the Boks.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry made no apologies for his game plan and said nothing would change, but the Springboks underscored the effectiveness of strong defence and a good kicking game against freewheeling flare.
International Rugby Board chief executive Mike Miller believes new rule interpretations have opened the way for more expansive and attractive play than the kick-at-all-cost spectacle in France four years ago.
But that has not been evident in the countdown to the Cup where defence has been paramount among most of the top 10 nations.
Less than three weeks from the start of the seventh World Cup and France and Wales are lining up as the northern hemisphere's biggest threats against the top three, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Despite their 18-5 loss to the Springboks, the All Blacks remain top of the world and Henry maintains that had he not rested stars such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter the result could have been different.
"The game that we are playing has got distinct possibilities. It's just you have to take the opportunities you create from that game and we didn't do that," he said.
"There are one or two other guys coming in with a lot more experience who may have settled it down and turned those opportunities into points."
South Africa's points came from five penalties and a drop goal by flyhalf Morné Steyn with coach Peter de Villiers not concerned his side has failed to score a try in successive home Tri-Nations matches.
"There are no bonus points in World Cups. I am confident this team can reach its goal," he said highlighting how South Africa have twice won the World Cup without scoring a try in either Final.
South Africa meanwhile have to settle for being last in the Tri-Nations which will be decided when the All Blacks play Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
France have installed themselves as fourth in the world rankings following back-to-back wins over Ireland and coach Marc Lievremont sees room for improvement "from a physical point of view and from a rugby point of view."
Les Blues's World Cup record includes two finals and five semifinals, a record only equalled by New Zealand, but they have never claimed the top prize. The script this time has them drawn to play old foes England in the quarterfinals.
Wales have backed up from a morale-boosting win over England by beating 2007 semifinalists Argentina.
But in the tough Pool D they will have to secure at least two wins against South Africa, Samoa and Fiji to feel confident of making the play-offs.
The Pumas loss to Wales was their first Test of the year and they declared themselves satisfied with their game plan built around a powerful forward pack, although veteran Felipe Contepomi was far from impressed with the high number of decision-making errors.
England, targeting a third successive World Cup final have failed to fire in the warm up games leading manager Martin Johnson to note after the loss to Wales: "There is lots we need to get better at."
If all else fails England also have the golden boot of 2003 hero Jonny Wilkinson to fall back on as the negotiate their way through the same pool as Argentina and Scotland.
The Scots have reason to feel confident with an unbeaten build-up including wins over Ireland and Italy which were cemented, like the victories of South Africa and Wales, on the back of accurate goal kicking.
Ireland have been the victims of their own downfall in the past month, losing to France (twice) and Scotland in error-strewn encounters leaving them much to work on before a likely must-win final pool match against Italy.
A cash shortage meant Manu Samoa, who round out the top 10, completed their Test build up when they upset Australia last month.
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