Hosts England will have their work cut out for them when they face Australia and Wales in the toughest pool at the World Cup in 2015.
This means one of the sport's traditional powers will be knocked out before the quarterfinals, with only the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the knock-out stages.
Wales were beaten 14-12 by Australia, twice the world champions, in Cardiff on Saturday - their eighth straight defeat by the Wallabies.
England are currently in confident mood after their 38-21 victory over reigning world champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
The All Blacks, who've never lost a pool match, were drawn in a Pool C with Argentina, Tonga and two as yet unqualified teams in Europe 1 and Africa 1.
The Springboks were drawn in Pool B, and will face Samoa for the fourth times in World Cups - the sides having met in 1995, 2003 and 2011 - and Scotland who they recently beat at Murrayfield.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was satisfied with the pool allocation.
"Our aim was to be in the first band of teams and we achieved that, moving from fourth at the start of the year to second in the IRB world rankings," said Meyer.
"As I said before the draw was made- to us it doesn't matter who we are drawn against, because to win the World Cup, you have to beat the best teams out there.
"If ever there was testimony that the gap between the top teams has closed, we saw that over the past month in the Northern Hemisphere. There really is very little to choose between the top sides in the world, while the next batch of teams has also improved a lot recently."
The quarterfinal draw could see New Zealand up against either France, who knocked them out in the last eight in 2007, or Ireland.
Meanwhile the winners of England, Australia or Wales will face the runners-up from Pool B, who on current form are likely to be Samoa or Scotland.
Whoever wins Pool A will avoid New Zealand until the final provided the All Blacks, as they've done at every previous World Cup, win their group.
The Pool B winners will face the runners-up from Pool A with the winners of a Pool D where France will be the favourites facing the runners from Pool C, likely to be either Argentina or Tonga.
The eight remaining teams will come from a series of global qualifying matches that started in Mexico in March and will culminate in 2014.