New Zealand survived an almighty scare from South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday to finish the Rugby Championship unbeaten while, at the same time, marginally increasing their cushion at the top of the World Rugby Rankings.
The All Blacks came up against a Springboks side unrecognisable from the one that shipped 57 unanswered points in Albany last month, but they held their nerve to win through by 25-24, earning 0.31 of a rating point and boosting their overall tally to 95.52, to give them a 5.38-point advantage over England.
A try from Jean-Luc du Preez midway through the second half, in addition to a score from Ross Cronje, put South Africa ahead 17-15 before Damian McKenzie (pictured) showed his class to restore New Zealand's lead with their third try following earlier efforts from Ryan Crotty and Rieko Ioane.
It was only when Lima Sopoaga knocked over a 76th-minute penalty that New Zealand could breathe a sigh of relief but, even then, South Africa continued to take the game to the visitors with Malcolm Marx scoring at the death.
AUSSIES ON THE UP
Meanwhile, Australia claimed second place in the Rugby Championship and third place in the World Rugby Rankings, climbing above Ireland and South Africa, after signing off with a 37-20 win over bottom-of-the-table Argentina in Mendoza.
Michael Cheika’s side are now on 85.59 points, after a gain of 0.93 of a point, two-tenths more than Ireland and a fraction over half a point more than the Springboks.
As they have done so often this season, Argentina competed well for long periods – the scores were level at 13-13 at half-time – but were unable to sustain their challenge to the end.
Reece Hodge bagged a brace of tries for the Wallabies with their other scores coming from Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley and Will Genia. Foley converted three of their five tries and added two penalties for a personal haul of 17 points.
Matias Alemanno and Jeronimo de la Fuente scored for Los Pumas who ended the campaign without a point to their name for the first time since they joined the competition in 2012.
Los Pumas stay in 10th place in the rankings but with only a 3.14-point cushion over nearest rivals Japan.
COLOMBIA HIT HALF-CENTURY
Away from the Rugby Championship, Colombia won 50-3 away to Peru in the opening match of the South American B Championship on Saturday.
Centre José Manuel Diosa was the star of the show for Los Tucanes, scoring one of their seven tries, six of which he converted, for a personal tally of 17 points.
With a place already secured in the new 2017 South American Six Nations Championship, the team captained by number Sebastián Mejía, dominated from the first minute, starting strongly with the forwards and imposing their strength in the backs to once again prove they are the team to beat at this level.
Diosa opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty, four minutes before Andrés Arango scored the first try, with Mejía adding his accustomed try showing his enormous strength before Andrés Álvarez and Gerson Ortíz also crossed for tries.
The home side got their only points in the board midway through a first half that ended with Colombia leading 29-3. Colombia added three further tries in the second half through Diosa, Maicol Machado and Cristian Rodallegas to leave the Estadio Fundo La Querencia with a much deserved win.
The win, Colombia's fourth in a row against Peru, lifts the reigning champions up two places in the rankings to 42nd, to the detriment of Morocco and Kazakhstan. Peru fall three places to 82nd, their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
The South American B Championship continues on Saturday when Peru host Venezuela at the same venue in Lima. Venezuela then travel to Colombia to face the tournament favourites in the final match on 21 October.
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