All Blacks will be crowned the new leaders of World Rugby’s rankings after knocking South Africa off the summit, with New Zealand also just one game from reclaiming the Rugby Championship title
Almost two years after they were last knocked off World Rugby’s perch, New Zealand have returned to the peak of the rankings following Saturday’s 36-13 win over Argentina.
The All Blacks ran in five tries at Suncorp Stadium to defeat the Pumas for the second time in less than a week, extending their lead at the top of the Rugby Championship to 10 points in the process.
That’s after South Africa suffered a second straight loss to Australia earlier on Saturday, succumbing 30-17 in Brisbane following a pair of braces from Len Ikitau and Marika Koroibete.
The Springboks had held the top spot in World Rugby’s official hierarchy since they beat England 32-12 to lift the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
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But their recent pair of defeats to a resurgent Australia has helped New Zealand not only cement their place as Rugby Championship leaders, but on the global scales also.
Change is always on the horizon, however, and South Africa will have their chance to move back to the summit when they face the All Blacks in back-to-back games over the next fortnight.
The reigning world champions must beat New Zealand twice on consecutive weekends if they’re to have any chance of winning the Rugby Championship, while lost yards in the rankings race serve as further motivation.
Head coach Ian Foster made no fewer than 11 changes to his starting team for Saturday’s clash against the Pumas, keeping many of his first-string stars fresh for the Boks double-header.
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And Foster will be treating those fixtures as the true barometer as to whether his side deserve to sit atop the World Rugby throne.
Tupou Vaa’i crossed the line twice too boost the scoreline in Brisbane, while Patrick Tuipulotu, TJ Perenara and Samisoni Taukei’aho also scored to complete the rout.
When asked about New Zealand’s move back to No. 1 in the international pecking order, Foster replied: “It doesn’t feel like you’re ever going to be at the top until you beat the team that’s at the top so let’s just wait and see.”
The All Blacks emerged as 23-13 winners when they faced South Africa during the pool stage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while the two teams drew 16-16 the last time they met in the Rugby Championship.
A repeat of the latter result at Queensland Country Bank Stadium next Saturday would be enough for New Zealand to guarantee the 2021 Rugby Championship crown with one game to spare.
The next encounter between the two teams will also be their 100th, offering special encouragement for both teams ahead of their trip to Townsville.
New Zealand and South Africa will duel on Australian soil for the first time in 18 years, with the All Blacks having stormed to a 29-9 victory when they met during the quarter-finals of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.