World Rankings: Boks remain top, All Blacks climb to No.2
NEWS: Home advantage counted for a lot as the July international window got off to a dramatic start with hard-fought wins for 14-man Australia and South Africa amongst others, leading to a number of changes in the World Rugby’s Rankings.
The Wallabies defied the loss of Darcy Swain to a 34th-minute red card to beat England 30-28 and end an eight-game losing run against one of their keenest sporting rivals, while South Africa left it until the last possible minute to complete a stunning 32-29 comeback against Wales.
Both results were bookended by New Zealand’s 42-19 win over Ireland and Argentina’s 26-18 victory against Scotland in the last of Saturday’s matches, making it a day to remember for the SANZAAR nations.
Having seen the All Blacks avenge their November defeat to Ireland in Dublin in such convincing fashion, South Africa knew that anything less than victory at Loftus Versveld would see them toppled from their position as the world’s number one ranked team.
Two tries from Louis Rees-Zammit silenced the home crowd as Wales led 18-3 but with Wales down to 14, 13 and then, at one point, 12 players, the momentum of the match shifted in favour of the Springboks. But Wales refused to lie down in the face of adversity and when Dewi Lake tied the scores with a few minutes to go, Wales captain Dan Biggar had the chance to put Wales two points in front with the conversion.
Biggar, who became Wales’ leading points-scorer against South Africa during the match, put his effort wide and was then sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on with the clock in the red. Damian Willemse kept his nerve to slot the resulting penalty and break Welsh hearts.
Instead of reclaiming the number one spot in the rankings, New Zealand had to be content with a one-place rise to second. After a bright opening from Ireland which brought a try for veteran winger Keith Earls, the All Blacks responded through Jordie Barrett before taking the game away from Ireland in a devastating eight-minute spell just before half-time that brought them 21 unanswered points.
The All Blacks added two more tries in the second half, including a second for Ardie Savea, to earn themselves just under one rating point.
With South Africa not picking up any additional points for their win over Wales due to the large points differential between the teams before home advantage is factored in, the gap between the world’s top two teams is down to just 0.89 of a point with the Springboks leading the way on 90.60 and the All Blacks on 89.72.
France made it nine wins on the bounce – one short of their all-time record – with a 42-23 win against Japan in Toyota. The 0.37 of a point added to their score wasn’t enough though to prevent Les Bleus from being overtaken by the All Blacks in the rankings, however, and they drop to third, on 89.24 points. Ireland remain in fourth place.