South Africa breathed new life into The Rugby Championship with a 36-34 victory over New Zealand in Wellington, while at the same time boosting their World Rugby Ranking by two places.
The two rating points awarded to South Africa and Australia’s home defeat to Argentina have combined to send the Springboks up to fifth, on 83.35 points.
It looked ominous for South Africa when tries from Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith gave New Zealand a 12-0 lead after just 15 minutes, but the visitors responded magnificently to reel off 21 unanswered points of their own in a 12-minute blitz.
Tries from winger Aphiwe Dyantyi, hooker Malcolm Marx and full-back Willie le Roux, all converted by Handre Pollard, changed the course of the game and, while Reiko Ioane pulled one back for the All Blacks, Pollard’s penalty on the stroke of half-time ensured the Springboks had a seven-point advantage at the break.
After a breathless first half, the game continued to be played in the finest traditions of New Zealand and South African rivalry and the Springboks stunned the home crowd when half-time replacement Cheslin Kobe stretched their lead to 12 points within a couple of minutes of the restart.
Ioane and Dyantyi scored their second tries of the match as the helter-skelter nature of the game continued before tries from Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea left South Africa hanging on for a famous victory.
New Zealand’s first home defeat since they lost to the British and Irish Lions in July 2017 has seen their lead over Ireland at the top of the rankings cut to 2.40 points.
Meanwhile, Argentina condemned Australia to their lowest-ever ranking of seventh after a 23-19 win over the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.
Nicolas Sanchez improved his record tally of points for Los Pumas with a 12-point haul including a try, two conversions and a penalty, while the rest of the visitors’ points came from Bautista Delguy’s 36th-minute try and long-range penalties at the start and the end of the match from the boot of Emiliano Boffelli.
Will Genia, Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty crossed for Australia with Matt Toomua adding two conversions in a defeat that cost the Wallabies two rating points. Argentina stay in ninth place but are now just eight-hundredths of a point behind France.
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