All Blacks downplay No.1 ranking as Springboks loom
REACTION: While the All Blacks may have taken the number one spot on the World Rugby rankings, Ardie Savea and Ian Foster aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
All Blacks dethroned South Africa as World Rugby No.1 side following their victory over the Los Pumas and the Springboks’ second loss to the Wallabies in as many weeks,
In a somewhat curious set of circumstances, World Rugby have seemingly decided to assign home advantage equally throughout the Rugby Championship for the purpose of rankings calculations, on a week by week basis, despite the fact that the majority of the games are being played in Australia.
That means the Springboks were treated as the home side in last weekend’s loss to the Wallabies, even though the game was played in front of a raucous Australian crowd.
As such, the cumulative effect of their losses has seen them drop below New Zealand in the rankings, after factoring in the All Blacks two wins (‘home’ and ‘away’) over the Pumas.
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While there’s been considerable focus on the world rankings in the lead up to the game – and there will also inevitably been plenty of focus after the fact – the rankings are something that evidently concern fans and the media more than the teams themselves.
Further still, All Blacks captain Savea has suggested that until his side take on the Springboks in Townsville next weekend, it’s impossible to make a claim about the world’s best team at present.
Savea commented after the All Blacks’ win over the Pumas that the number one ranking being on the line didn’t factor into their performance by any stretch of the imagination.
“I wasn’t even thinking about that,” he said. “It got mentioned after in the post-match interview but my mindset is you’ve got to beat number one to be number one. It doesn’t play into anything [for] me. We’ll enjoy tonight and refocus next week.”
Head coach Ian Foster backed up his captain’s words, suggesting that the All Blacks certainly don’t need any further motivation to get up against the Springboks, regardless of world rankings.
“I’m at the same level as Ardie,” he said. “We’re two very simple people, definitely not mathematicians.
“To be fair, it’s not in our mind at all. I’m not trying to say that to downplay it but we’re about to play South Africa next week. We’ll get excited about that and we’re more interested in winning the test match than where we sit and if we focus too much on the other thing, then we’ll get tripped up and we won’t be there for very long so that doesn’t interest us either.”
“Trust me, we love playing test matches but we really love playing South Africa,” he added. “Probably because of the amount of respect we’ve got for them and over history, that’s been an outstanding rivalry.
“We’re not so much talking about number ones and number twos and that. We’ve got a chance to go to Townsville and play a foe we’ve got a lot of respect for and put ourselves in a pretty nice position in this Championship, which is something that we’re pretty keen on winning.”
Savea had a similar sentiment.
“It’s always special playing against South Africa,” he said. “They’re special matches.”
While the All Blacks will hold top ranking when World Rugby announce the changes this week, the final standings post the Rugby Championship will likely hinge on who wins the second match of their back-to-back games coming up over the next fortnight.
By Tom Vinicombe, Rugbypass