Springboks great Bryan Habana says facing the All Blacks in the World Cup pool stage is "not ideal" for the battling South African side.

The veteran wing and World Cup winner didn't sound overly optimistic about South Africa's 2019 chances, pointing out twice that pool opponent Italy beat the Springboks in November.

And he believes South Africa will almost certainly have to beat the All Blacks in their pool to have a major hope of lifting the trophy for a third time.

"Given the 2016 record losses to New Zealand in New Zealand and South Africa, and the first loss to Italy in November, we knew we'd face one of the top four teams," he said.

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"It's definitely not ideal, knowing that New Zealand are the number one team in the world at international and national level. We lost to Italy last year, which doesn't make the pool any easier.

"Realistically, if the Springboks want to go on and be successful, they will have to try to beat the All Blacks. No team has ever won a World Cup having lost a game. Losing to the All Blacks means a tougher road to the final."

Habana said 2017 was vital for South Africa in creating a platform from which to build a strong World Cup side.

"It is not just about the pool stages. It is about preparing to be at your best for seven games. Your squad depth gets tested immensely. There is no formula (in terms of) being in a hard pool or an easy pool.

"Everyone will be looking at Pool C as the pool of death, but every pool has its challenges."

Watch: Jonny Wilkinson breaks down the RWC draw

Jonny Wilkinson, a key to England's 2003 triumph, said a tougher pool was an advantage.

"With all the preparation you are ready to peak," he said.

"To be able to go out there and find where you stand is key, as opposed to maybe getting away with a few bad habits or mistakes, being slightly off the ball but creeping through.

"That is dangerous compared to having tough run outs and maybe having to recover a bit quicker."

Wilkinson was excited about Japan's prospects on home soil.

"England's pool is very interesting with regards to Argentina and France...and we still don't know who is to come, Samoa, Tonga and Canada being potential (teams).

"(the pool with) Ireland, Scotland and Japan could be very exciting for the host nation. It will be amazing to feel the energy of the public behind their team in those games.

"For Ireland and Scotland, it will be a case of remaining very focussed in a chaotic and loud environment."

2019 World Cup 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