The ranking implications of Rugby Championship openers
SPOTLIGHT: One of the most open-looking Rugby Championship tournaments gets underway this weekend.
The results of the opening round will having far-reaching implications on the rankings of all four teams.
New Zealand has the hardest possible start to their title defence, as they take on South Africa in Nelspruit.
Australia travel to Argentina to face Los Pumas in Mendoza.
The Springboks are slight favourites to win the latest instalment of one of the sport’s greatest rivalries, a position they are normally unaccustomed to given New Zealand’s recent dominance.
However, the All Blacks go into the Rugby Championship 2022 on the back of a one-two series loss to Ireland and are staring at three consecutive losses for the first time since August 1998.
Ian Foster’s side have slipped down to an all-time low of fourth in the rankings following a run of just one win in their last five matches and will fall even further, to fifth below England, if beaten by more than 15 points this weekend.
However, a much-needed victory for the All Blacks would see them climb above the Springboks into third place.
South Africa cannot improve on third place if they follow up their two-one series victory against Wales with a win, but there will be very little to choose between themselves and France if the margin is over 15 points.
Just as New Zealand will be the higher ranked of the two teams if they beat the Springboks, Argentina will overtake Australia in victory.
If that transpires, Los Pumas will climb up to seventh with the Wallabies falling to a new low of eighth and Wales dropping down to ninth unless there is more than 15 points between the teams.
Argentina’s record win in this fixture is 15 points, set in 1983, and if they beat that scoreline Los Pumas will close to within 0.17 of a point of sixth-placed Scotland. Such a scoreline will also result in Australia losing an additional place, enabling Wales to keep hold of eighth.