The All Blacks have drawn their old rivals South Africa in their 2019 World Cup pool, a meeting that coach Steve Hansen will be quietly happy about.

In a glittering ceremony tonight in the Japanese city of Kyoto, New Zealand were drawn against the Springboks, Italy, Africa 1, and the repechage winner, the latter two teams to be decided through a qualification process by the end of next year.

The crowd gave an audible "ooh" as the All Blacks, the defending champions and top ranked team in the world, were drawn in Pool B alongside the Boks, and Hansen gave a wink. He will be reasonably happy with the draw and the fact that his side will face stern challenges from not only the South Africans but also the Italians.

"We've drawn a pool that's got some strength in it and that's okay," Hansen said afterwards. "We know South Africa well, we know they'll be tough, and Italy are an improving side and we don't know yet who the qualifiers are going to be but we can assume they will be good sides.

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"There are some very tough pools. Pool C [England, France, Argentina] is also very tough. Eventually, though, if you're going to win the thing you've got to play all the good teams. We're happy, now we've just got to find out where the games are going to be played so we can get our planning right."

One of the biggest challenges for the All Blacks during the last World Cup in England 18 months ago was that only Argentina was capable of truly testing them in their pool, and the match, at Wembley, was a relatively close affair. Tonga, Namibia and Georgia were the All Blacks' other opponents.

Hansen's strategy was to confine the All Blacks' game plan against the lesser teams in order to make it more challenging for his players, and it worked, the defending champions blasting past France in the quarter-final, edging the Boks in the semifinal and running away from Australia in the grand final.

Hansen said on stage straight afterwards of the clash against the Boks: "Everyone will get excited by it. We know each other pretty well so we'll continue to understand each other before we get here I guess.

"It's a great opportunity," he said of the tournament in Japan, the first time it has been held in Asia. "It's a special part of the world, a unique culture. Rugby is developing here and they're probably leading that development in this region. Let's hope the tournament reaches great heights, it's an exciting place to come to, and we all wish it the best."

Hansen's side had to show great physical and mental fortitude to get past South Africa on a wet Twickenham pitch in the 2015 semifinal, but ever since have comfortably had the measure of their opponents in the Rugby Championship.

Heyneke Meyer's replacement Allister Coetzee has struggled to gel the side and seems caught in two minds as to how he wants it to play; a forward-focused mentality or with an attacking mindset, and unfortunately for him, the All Blacks are vastly superior in both facets.

The All Blacks have never lost a World Cup pool match, and in fact have lost World Cup matches to only three nations; Australia (twice), France (twice) and South Africa (twice).

The losses to the Boks came at the 1995 World Cup in the Republic - a tryless match which went to extra time - and the play-off for third and fourth four years later.

Also on stage tonight was former All Blacks loose forward Jamie Joseph, the former Highlanders coach now in charge of Japan, who have been drawn in Pool A alongside relatively big guns Ireland and Scotland.

Japan play Ireland in June, with Joseph saying the clashes would give him a good indication of where his team were at.

"Any pool we were put in was going to be a big challenge," Joseph said. "Now there's some certainty around it we can start our planning and really look forward to it.

"We haven't beaten Ireland or Scotland to date so we know that the challenge is going to be big."

Japan, under current England coach Eddie Jones, were the darlings of the last World Cup when fighting back to beat the Springboks in a thriller in Brighton.

Australia were drawn in Pool D alongside Wales and Georgia, with Pool C, which features England, France and Argentina, potentially the most even.

That probably qualifies as the closest thing to the so-called "Pool of death", with only two nations able to qualify for the knockout stages.

England famously failed to make it out of their pool at the last World Cup, falling to Wales and Australia and being pushed even by Fiji in the tournament opener.

Rugby World Cup 2019 draw:
Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-off winner
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repechage winner
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2