Ian Foster led New Zealand back to the top of the world rankings on Saturday, but the All Blacks’ head coach dismissed the significance of the feat as he shifts attention to this week’s Rugby Championship clash with world champions SA.
The All Blacks supplanted the Springboks as the sport’s top-rated team with a 36-13 win over Argentina in Brisbane hours after the Springboks had slipped to a second successive loss against Australia.
The two nations will go head-to-head on Saturday in Townsville in their first meeting in 2021’s southern hemisphere championship, and Foster has his sights fixed on the clash with Jacques Nienaber’s side.
“It’s not on our mind at all,” said Foster of the All Blacks’ move into the No 1 spot. “I’m not saying that to downplay it.”
With the SA match looming, he told a news conference after the Argentina match, “We’ll get excited about that. We’re more interested in winning a Test match than where we sit on the rankings.
“If we focus too much on the other thing, we’ll get tripped up and won’t be there for very long and that doesn’t interest us either.”
The All Blacks have been in commanding form in the competition so far, defeating Argentina with a second-string line-up on Saturday after notching up a comfortable victory over the Pumas the previous weekend.
Foster’s team led the standings in the Rugby Championship with a maximum 20 points from their first four games. Anything other than a bonus point win for the Springboks will hand New Zealand the title.
“We love playing Test matches, but we really love playing SA, probably because of the amount of respect we’ve got for them,” said Foster.
“Over history it’s been an outstanding rivalry. We’re not so much talking about No 1s and No 2s, we’ve got a chance to go to Townsville to play a foe we’ve got a lot of respect for and put ourselves in a pretty nice position in this championship.”
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