The Springboks’ big victory over the All Blacks in Wellington has kept their slim hopes of winning the Rugby Championship title alive, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Boks hung on for a 36-34 win at the Cake Tin on Saturday. The result marked their first win over the All Blacks since 2014, as well as their first victory on New Zealand soil since 2009.
In the context of the current tournament, the Boks have strengthened their position at second on the log. They currently sit on 10 log points and trail the All Blacks by six with two rounds remaining.
The All Blacks went into the clash in Wellington needing a bonus-point victory to take an unassailable lead at the top of the Rugby Championship standings. While they remain favourites to win the title from here, the fact of the matter is that the Boks – thanks to their efforts at the Cake Tin – are still in the race.
Saturday witnessed another surprise result when Argentina beat the Wallabies 23-19 on the Gold Coast to end a 35-year drought on Australian soil.
Many, including the Boks, will be hoping that the Pumas can carry some momentum through to their next game against the All Blacks in Buenos Aires on 30 September.
The Boks need to win their remaining matches – against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth and the All Blacks in Pretoria – to have any chance of winning the Rugby Championship. They haven’t won the southern hemisphere showpiece since 2009 (when it was called the Tri-Nations).
The big question is whether the Pumas can do the Boks the ultimate favour. If the All Blacks falter in Buenos Aires, there will be everything to play for when South Africa host New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld on 7 October.
The All Blacks would still go into that game as favourites, given their overall record against the Boks as well as their record in South Africa in recent years. But as we saw in Wellington, anything can happen in a one-off game.
If the Boks beat the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth without a bonus point, and the All Blacks win in Argentina, then the All Blacks will secure the title. There will be nothing but bragging rights to play for in the final game at Loftus in that scenario.
If the Boks score a bonus-point win and the All Blacks win by a slender margin in round five, the All Blacks will have the advantage heading into the Pretoria fixture.
The Boks will have a mountain to climb in that scenario, needing a bonus point and a big winning margin to beat the New Zealanders’ overall points difference (the All Blacks’ points difference is 73 while the Boks’ is -3).
At the very least, the Boks should be aiming for a second-place finish in the tournament. Argentina sit at third on the log at this stage, but may overtake the Boks in the coming weeks if the South Africans lose both of their home Tests.
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