New Zealand snatched South Africa’s world No 1 ranking and placed one hand on the Rugby Championship trophy after subjecting Argentina to a second successive heavy defeat in Brisbane on Saturday.
The All Blacks’ 36-13 bonus-point win in front of 38,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium extended their lead to 10 points over the second-placed Springboks in the table while knocking Argentina and Australia out of the tournament.
South Africa, beaten 30-17 by Australia in the first match of Saturday’s double-header, will need to defeat New Zealand twice and pile on the tries in their last two matches to earn bonus points to have any hope of stealing the silverware.
The scale of the Springboks’ task was underlined as a changed All Blacks team ran over five tries to record their fourth win from four matches in a dominant campaign.
“We obviously made a few changes and to keep our performance going with the new combination was pleasing,” said the All Blacks coach Ian Foster. “We didn’t change a lot of our game plans … I was delighted with the way we got through that.”
Lock Tupou Vaa’i scored two tries, while Patrick Tuipulotu, the scrum-half TJ Perenara and hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho also crossed to score as the All Blacks continued their rampaging form after hammering the Pumas 39-0 on the Gold Coast last Sunday.
It could have been much worse for Argentina as Foster’s side missed out on three tries in the first half and another in the second. Two early tries were cancelled due to forward passes and a third to Rieko Ioane was ruled out before half-time after the centre lunged over illegally when brought down under the posts. Young scrum-half Finlay Christie blew the fourth when he fumbled the ball forward a metre out from an undefended line.
The injury-hit Pumas slumped to their fourth successive loss after opening defeats away to South Africa, but it was a better performance by Mario Ledesma’s side.
The All Blacks took a 24-3 lead into the second half, but the Argentina wing Emiliano Boffelli grabbed a 51st-minute try and his conversion shaved the deficit to 16 points. But New Zealand defended strongly in the last quarter before Vaa’i cantered over unmarked three minutes from the siren for his second try as a tired defence surrendered.
Foster said the All Blacks would celebrate the win but was unfazed about the world No 1 ranking. “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,” he said.